Well, the Milwaukee Brewers are doing it again. After going 20-7 during the month of September in 2018 which led to the Brew Crew winning the National League Central Division title, Milwaukee is having another September to remember in 2019.
Going into their weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park, the Brewers have so far gone 14-4 this month which as catapulted them to the No. 2 Wildcard position.
In addition to that, the Brewers are just one game out of the No. 1 Wildcard spot held by the Washington Nationals and just three games out of the NL Central lead, held by the St. Louis Cardinals, with nine games to play.
The Cards and the Chicago Cubs (who are one game behind the Brewers) are currently battling in a series at Wrigley Field which has three games to go, plus play each other again next week for three more games in St. Louis.
And a lot of this has happened without the help of 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich, who was lost for the season due to a fractured kneecap on September 10 in Miami. The Brewers have gone 8-2 since that devastating injury took place.
Yelich was having another MVP type season in 2019, as he had hit 44 homers and had 97 RBIs, plus was hitting .329. No. 22 had also stolen 30 bases.
Still, the Brewers are getting the job done this September. In the 18 games that they have played so far, the Brew Crew has scored 81 runs (4.5 runs-per-game) and given up just 59 (3.27 runs-per-game).
In terms of leading the Brewers in the absence of Yelich in terms of clutch hitting, three players come to mind in the month of September. 3B Mike Moustakas (35/85/.258), C Yasmani Grandal (27/73/.248, plus 100 walks) and LF Ryan Braun (20/67/.277) are all having solid seasons, but have really heated up recently.
Braun put an exclamation point regarding his legacy in clutch moments, when he hit a grand slam homer with two outs and two strikes against the Cardinals in St. Louis to win the game last Sunday.
Plus, role players like OF Ben Gamel and IF Corey Spangenberg have both come through when it counted as of late. With rookie sensation 2B Kestin Hiuri (17/44/.301) back in the lineup after a hamstring issue, the Brewers have really added strength to their lineup.
Speaking of strength, 1B Eric Thames (21/56/.248) has been solid as well this season overall.
Add to that, CF Lorenzo Cain (10/45/.251) looks like he has some pop in his bat now after going through some injury woes. In his absence, rookie Trent Grisham (5/16/.246) has been a good replacement, not only in center, but in playing all outfield positions. The same holds true with Gamel.
SS Orlando Arcia (14/51/.217) has been struggling at the plate, but Hernan Perez (7/17/.230) has helped out at SS since his return from the minors.
Nobody has struggled more this year than IF Travis Shaw (7/15/.154), but even he hit a home run recently. If Shaw ever returns to the form of the last two seasons in the near future, the Brewers would be exuberant.
Still, you don’t go 14-4 in September without good pitching. And this is where manager Craig Counsell is utilizing his bullpen to the maximum. More times than not a starter won’t last through the fifth inning, but still the formula has worked as the pen has been excellent for the most part.
Now with starter Brandon Woodruff (11-3/3.69 ERA) back in the mix after an oblique injury, the pitching staff now has even more options.
The other starters have done their job overall. Jordan Lyles (6-1/2.35 ERA) has been outstanding after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Zack Davies (10-7, 3.70 ERA), Gio Gonzalez (2-2/3.86 ERA) and Chase Anderson (6-4/4.50 ERA) have all been fairly consistent, although each has had a few bumps in the road.
Adrian Hauser (6-7/3.83 ERA) has also started as of late, but with Woodruff back, he might go back into a bullpen role in which he was very effective.
Speaking of the pen, four pitchers have really looked good recently. I’m talking about Drew Pomeranz (0-1/2.42 ERA), Freddie Peralta (7-3/5.36 ERA), Junior Guerra (9-5/3.60 ERA) and Alex Claudio (2-2/3.75 ERA). Pomeranz looks to be the closer when Josh Hader isn’t available, as his high fastball has been striking out hitters at a high rate recently. The same goes for Peralta and his high heat.
Hader (3-5/2.66 ERA) looks like he is back on track again now, after having a bit of a rough stretch. But because he is now mixing in his slider along with his tough to see fastball, Hader has been very good. No. 71 has struck out 130 hitters in just 71 innings.
Counsell still seems to trust Matt Albers (8-5), but his ERA has been steadily climbing and is up to 5.01. Jay Jackson (1-0/4.50) has had his moments, but has overall done a good job.
The bottom line is the Brewers are doing something that almost no one saw the club doing when the month of September started. I mean, the team was just three games over .500 and hadn’t really had a real hot streak all season long. Then on top of that, the team loses it’s best player 10 days into the month for the season.
As someone who covered the Brewers during a time when the Brewers made it to the postseason for two consecutive seasons in 1981 and 1982, this team has an energy that I saw on those teams, as well as the one who made it one game from the World Series last year.
The players certainly deserve credit for overcoming so much this season, but so does Counsell and his coaching staff.
Kudos also need to go to GM David Stearns for adding players like Lyles and Pomeranz.
Time will tell what will happen in these last nine games of the season, but what the Brewers are doing sure looks good from my perspective.