Before you go the negative route in your thinking, keep in mind the 2022 Brewers started the season 32-18. That was the best 50-game start in franchise history. Yeah, it feels like a decade ago, but this was the team that did it, and it included games against the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, and San Diego Padres. After dropping the series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee sits at 65-58. Almost immediately following that 50-game stretch, the Brewers dropped 10 of 11 contests, partly due to multiple injuries. A 162-game season creates those peaks and valleys.
From that point on (June 15), Milwaukee has a 31-29 mark. Nothing special, but not the collapse of a season many like to portray. With 39 games remaining, there is plenty of time to turn a frustrating season into another playoff appearance and "bite at the apple."
It begins Friday with a significant shift in Milwaukee's schedule. The Brewers play six consecutive series against teams owning a .500 or worse record (depending on the San Francisco Giants games). Yes, we've been down this road before, and it was ugly when the Brewers went 1-5 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds after the Josh Hader trade. However, there were extenuating circumstances, and the Brewers now sense the urgency to battle. Here's a look at the breakdown of when Milwaukee can make up ground in the standings:
- Three-game series vs. the Chicago Cubs (54-71)
- Three-game series vs. the Pirates (47-77)
- Four-game series vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks (56-67)
- Three-game series vs. the Colorado Rockies (54-72)
- Doubleheader vs. Giants (61-62)
- Three-game series vs. the Reds (48-75)
The combined winning percentage of those six teams is just .430 this season. These next 18 games put the Brewers in the driver's seat to fill up the win column before they face the Cardinals again on September 13. Many have started focusing on the Wild Card, with the Brewers five games behind the Cardinals in the division. However, they could erase that deficit just as quickly as St. Louis overtook Milwaukee in recent weeks. The Cards have been running hot for a while, having gone 18-4 in their last 22 games. That means some regression is coming, and the Crew must take advantage.
Another positive for the Brewers is that 11 of those next 18 contests are at American Family Field, with just the seven-game trip to San Francisco and Colorado in the middle of four home series. The Brewers owns a 31-24 mark at home, while each opponent they will face is below .500 on the road. Some teams are even 15-20 games under the break-even level away from their home park.
It will be crucial to make headway during those 18 matchups because then Milwaukee hits a pitfall for three series amongst the softer schedule. They get the Cardinals on the road for a two-game tilt, then come home to take on both New York clubs in three-game sets. The Yankees (76-48) and Mets (79-46) lead their respective East divisions and have top-five records in MLB.
The Yankees have had a ton of trouble winning games lately, but it appears they are coming off that struggle bus, unfortunately for the Brewers. Meanwhile, the Mets have one of the top pitching staffs in the league, offering up a significant challenge for Milwaukee's already-inconsistent bats. If the Brewers can handle their business against the lesser clubs, they don't need to win each series against the New York teams. Some good news for the Brewers: They have a winning record against teams over .500, something the Cardinals can't brag about this year.
Following those three tough series, the schedule bounces right back into Milwaukee's favor. They take their final road trip of the year with a four-game set in Cincy against a Reds club that has lost even more talent in the past month. Then the Brewers play their last nine games at home with two against St. Louis, a four-game series versus the Miami Marlins (54-69), and a year-end three-game against the Diamondbacks. As challenging as Milwaukee's schedule has been for most of the year, the calendar gives them every chance to make another September run into the playoffs in 2022.
The chart below puts into perspective the key difference between their overall record last year versus this season:
Ultimately, it comes down to the Brewers playing better baseball against lower-level opponents. Milwaukee's combined 24-20 record against the Cubs, Pirates, and Reds isn't good enough for a playoff contender. Whether the Brewers have played down to their foes' level, had mental issues creating on-field failures, or just performed poorly in recent matchups, they need to hit their stride when it matters most. Most know manager Craig Counsell has had a knack for finding ways to run off win streaks in the season's final month. He has taken on some deserved scrutiny for several of his decisions this season, so it is fair to wonder if anything will be different come September. Of course, it's the players who decide the results on the field.
The division crown is still in sight, and a Wild Card entry to the playoffs is right in front of the Brewers, fighting with the Philadelphia Phillies and the sinking Padres. How Milwaukee handles the 29 games against teams at or below .500 will make or break any thoughts of a deep October run. As frustrating as this team has been at times, September and beyond could once again be a lot of fun.
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