OK, let’s face it: Things could be looking a lot better for the Milwaukee Brewers.
For the first time in 2018 the are facing an elimination game. One more loss before two more wins, and their glorious season is over. Two more wins, and it’s World Series.
The Brewers trail the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-2, having lost two straight games for the first time in a month. When they scored their 4-0 victory Monday night, things were pretty rosy. And if you’d suggested after Monday night that they’d get 12 innings of one-run pitching on Tuesday night and four innings of shutout ball from Brandon Woodruff on Wednesday, you might think the Brewers already would be preparing for the winner of the Boston-Houston series in the American League.
Obviously, the story turned out significantly different.
So … heading into Friday night, here are some reasons for optimism and some reasons for pessimism
Optimism: The Brewers won 96 games, earning them the right to play at home for the final game of an NLDS or the final two games of an NLCS. They were an NL-best 51-30 at Miller Park, so maybe all they need to get to the World Series is just a little more home cooking.
Pessimism: Home or away, too many of their big bats have gone too quiet in this series. Lorenzo Cain entered Wednesday’s Game 5 in an 0-for-10 slump before delivering an RBI double. Cain missed out on a couple of chances to deliver in the excruciating 13-inning loss on Tuesday. Christian Yelich, red-hot for nearly all of the second half, is 3 for 20 (.150) in the series. Worse, it’s even softer than it looks. One of the hits was a bunt, another an infield chopper he beat out. Jesus Aguilar is batting .222 in the series. Mike Moustakas is just 2 for 21 (.o95) in the series.
Optimism: Cain, Yelich, Aguilar and Moustakas are due for big games, aren’t they?
Pessimism: The Brewers wasted opportunities to take command of the series in Games 2 and 4. They led, 3-0, in Game 4 and missed chances to make the lead even bigger. The Dodgers have capitalized on all of their opportunities. The Brewers have missed a couple. The opportunities were there. Maybe … just maybe, the train has left the Brewers at the station.
Optimism: The Brewers have their best two starters — Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin — slated for Games 6 and 7.
Pessimism: The Brewers have been so hot for the last eight weeks. They’ve won 12 of 13 series since August 20 and also won the Central Division playoff game. Hot streaks end, and when they do, they’re often followed by skids. This would be as bad a time as ever for a skid to set in.
Optimism: The Brewers’ bullpen stars were not used Wednesday, and Thursday’s off-day should mean Corey Knebel, Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress will be ready to go on Friday and Saturday.
The Brewers are playing in their 49th season — 50th when you count the season in Seattle as the Pilots. This is only their third seven-game post-season series. The American League Championship Series in 1982 was only a best-of-five back then. Fans old enough to remember that 1982 season remember how the Brewers came home for the final three games down, 0-2, and won the next three. They remember that late Sunday afternoon, with Cecil Cooper imploring his line drive to left to “get down, get down.” They remember Charlie Moore and Jim Gantner rolling in the dirt at home plate celebrating the tying and go-ahead runs in that seventh inning after Brian Downing’s throw came in late. And they remember Rod Carew’s jam-shot one-hopper to Robin Yount and Yount’s throw to Cooper for the final out and bedlam.
Milwaukee is hungry for another World Series. Miller Park should be an electric atmosphere. The Brewers of 2017 established a remarkable ability to come back from tough losses, and the 2018 team has even improved on that trait.
Plenty of reasons point to the Brewers being able to win Games 6 and 7. This thing ain’t over yet.