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  • A History of Heartbreak 2018-2021: Will the Brewers Disappoint Us Again?

    Michael Trzinski

    While the past seven years of Brewers baseball has seen a lot of success, they haven't been able to push through in October.

    Image courtesy of © Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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    After losing to the Cardinals in 2011, the Brewers fell into a funk, missing the playoffs for six straight years (2012-2017). During that gloomy stretch, Milwaukee slogged to a record of 466-506, an average of 78 victories per season. Manager Ron Roenicke, who finished second in the voting for NL Manager of the Year in his rookie campaign of 2011, saw his Brewers team struggle to earn 83, 74, and 82 wins, respectively, in the next three seasons. In 2015, Milwaukee was languishing in fifth place in the NL Central with a record of 7-18 on May 3 when Roenicke was fired and Craig Counsell took over. 

    In 2017, Milwaukee won 86 games and finished second in the NL Central, an improvement of 13 games over the previous season. They would nearly match that improvement in 2018, when the team posted a 96-67 record, beating the Chicago Cubs in a one-game tiebreaker to take the NL Central crown.

    2018: So close
    The Brewers finished the season strong, coming from third place as the calendar flipped to September, winning 19 of 26 games to finish in a first-place tie in the NL Central with Chicago, setting up a ‘winner-take-all’ match on Monday. October 1. The Brewers scored two runs in the eighth and partied at the ‘Friendly Confines’ after a 3-1 victory, sending the club to the NLDS, where they would face Colorado. Milwaukee swept the three-game series, outscoring the Rockies 13-2, including two shutouts. 

    Next up for Milwaukee in the NLCS was Los Angeles. The teams split the two games at Miller Park, each contest a one-run game. The Dodgers fared better at Chavez Ravine, winning two straight after a 4-0 Milwaukee win in Game 3. The teams jetted back to Brew City, with LA leading three games to two.

    The Brewers were dominant in Game 6, evening the series with a 7-2 win, and were getting ready to put plastic up in their locker room. But all the Brewers could muster in Game Seven was a first-inning home run by Christian Yelich. Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw dispatched the last seven Milwaukee hitters, including five by strikeout, to take a 5-1 win and move on to the World Series. The Dodgers would lose to the Boston Red Sox in the Fall Classic in five games.

    2019: One and done in Washington
    The Brewers started hot in April, winning seven of their first eight games, and then cooled off. On July 5, they found themselves in first place in the NL Central, with the pesky Cubs lurking a half-game behind. But after losing five of the next six, the Brewers dropped to third and would bounce between second and third the rest of the year, ending in second, two games behind St. Louis, with a mark of 89-73. 

    The Brewers traveled to Washington, DC, to face the Nationals in a one-game Wild Card contest (NLWC). The Brewers built a 3-0 lead on home runs by Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames and took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. Ace closer Josh Hader had two outs and two on in the eighth, but then a single, walk, and another base hit by Juan Soto added up to three runs and a 4-3 Nats lead. Daniel Hudson pitched the ninth and earned the save for Washington, and once again, the Brewers were eliminated from post-season play. Washington won the NLDS, swept the Cards in the NLCS, and defeated Houston in seven games to win the Series.

    2020: Covid strikes down the season
    For the first time since 1995, the major leagues did not play a full season. The Coronavirus shortened the season to 60 games, during which Milwaukee went 29-31, finishing fourth in the NL Central behind champion Chicago, the Cardinals, and the Reds.

    Playing Los Angeles in one of the four NLWC series, the Brewers were swept in the best-of-three series. Clayton Kershaw struck out 13, allowing only three hits in eight innings to close out the short series in Game Two. After beating San Diego (NLDS) and Atlanta (NLCS), the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in six games to grab another World Series.

    2021: Will Smith haunts his old mates
    The Brewers dominated the last four months of the season, leading the NL Central for all but six days beginning on June 1. On September 12, Milwaukee had a dominating 14-game lead on the rest of the NL Central but played listlessly the last three weeks of the campaign, going 6-12. They still won the division by five games over St. Louis with a record of 95-67. 

    In the NLDS, the  Brewers got knocked out of the post-season by the Atlanta Braves, three games to one. Former Brewer southpaw reliever Will Smith saved all three games for the Braves. And once again, the team that ended the Brewers’ season was the team that held up the Commissioner’s Trophy that signified the world champion of baseball. The Braves beat the Dodgers in the NLCS and then took out Houston in six games in the Series.

    Milwaukee lost at all three levels in the playoffs in the last 15 years and came close in 2018. As of August 24, Milwaukee is in first place this year and has a 3.5 game lead over Chicago and Cincinnati. We’ve been here before and have faced heartbreak so many times.

    If the hitting can catch up to the pitching, is Milwaukee good enough to make a long run through the post-season?

    Only time will tell.

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    Well, speaking for myself, we've done the playoff thing pretty frequently the last decade.  Anything short of the World Series will be disappointing.

    I don't feel we have the hitting to take us there, much less win it, so this is not saying that I feel like we should.  At some point, this organization has to get past the '82 series appearance as our high water mark.

    This won't be that year, but the fan in me will still be disappointed if it doesn't happen.

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    Turbo, it would really be nice for them to punch through to the Series, but it always seems like either the hitting or pitching is a bit light. Maybe one of these years, they will have the 'killer' team and blow everybody away. Not sure 2023 is that year :(


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    The last few weeks have me feeling very optimistic they could. Adames, Taylor, and Tellez seem to be back on track, Santana and Canha are heating up, Turang is adjusting to MLB pitching.

    Plus the pitching is at full strength.

    We forget just how depleted the team was due to IL stint.

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