The short answer: It depends. Why those two words? Let’s recap the situation for the Brewers as of the morning of September 20: They are six and a half games ahead of the Cubs for the NL Central crown, needing a combination of eight wins and/or Cubs losses to secure the title. This is a very good spot to be in for the Brewers.
The Brewers have a total of nine games left: three games in Miami against the Marlins, then following a day off; there is a six-game home stand with three games each against the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs to conclude the regular season.
Given that the Cubs slid backward while the Brewers were surging, it is extremely likely that the Crew could clinch the division before that final home stand. In that case, the Brewers will want to set things up so that their “Big Three” starters, Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta, will be set to handle the first-round playoff series, a best-of-three matchup with the number six seed, which would be whoever comes ahead in the tiebreakers between the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks. Barring an epic collapse, that objective should be easy to reach. That would mean the team can spend the last week focusing on preparing for their first-round playoff series.
If the current trends hold and the Brewers clinch the NL Central on the road this week, then the best option for the Brewers will be to use that last week of the season to tune up players who are missing time and to rest others. This last week could be an extended rehab stint for Garrett Mitchell, for example, and a chance to let Joey Wiemer try to get a bit more into the groove. It could also let veterans like Christian Yelich and Mark Canha get much-needed rest before the playoff push if necessary.
In addition, it is also a good chance to figure out who should go onto the bench and in the bullpen for the playoffs. Can Brice Turang hit well enough to start? Or should the Crew use rookie hero Andruw Monasterio at second? Will Mitchell or Wiemer be the reserve outfielder? Can Andrew Chafin be the second lefty in the bullpen, or should Eric Lauer, Ethan Small, or Clayton Andrews get a shot?
The Brewers also get to figure out how to construct their batting order. It could include some experimentation with the batting order. For instance, Sal Frelick is proving to be a very capable leadoff hitter, which could allow the Crew to move Yelich to third in the order and push Carlos Santana, Canha, Rowdy Tellez, Willy Adames and Josh Donaldson down a space – making the lineup more dangerous.
Given the situation as it is right now, the Brewers have a chance to answer a few questions for the 2023 playoffs in the last week of the season, and getting those answers should be the primary goal when Craig Counsell makes his managerial decisions.
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