According to FanGraphs, the Brewers now sport a 72.2-percent chance of winning the NL Central. They're 88.5-percent likely to make the playoffs. It's not yet an easy road to October, and nothing is guaranteed. With six games left on the schedule against the Cubs and so many other teams involved in the twin races for both the division and the NL's three Wild Card spots, it would be impossible to feel that level of security now.
Overall, though, the Brewers are in terrific position. The Dodgers' hot streak since the trade deadline has torpedoed the Crew's hopes of earning a first-round bye, especially since that spree included the Dodgers sweeping the Brewers last week. On the other hand, in the same three-week span, Milwaukee's odds to win the NL Central have risen from 60 percent to that figure just north of 72, and their chances of attaining the postseason have climbed from 70 percent to nearly 90.
With all their head-to-head contests against the Reds complete, the Brewers know they have (in effect) a five-game lead over Cincinnati. They only lead them by four games, but the Crew own the tiebreaker if they end the season tied. Five games is not an invincible lead, and the Cubs are closer on their heels anyway, but the gap within the division is getting more comfortable. At the same time, the Phillies and Giants have started treading water, and lesser Wild Card contenders Miami, Arizona, and San Diego seem to be in various stages of freefall. That's given the Brewers a much clearer path not only to a Wild Card berth should they be caught in the divisional contest, but to the top Wild Card entry, which comes with the same privilege (home-field advantage in the Wild Card Series) as goes to the third-winningest division champion.
Rather than worry about any of this, from their position, the Brewers just need to keep winning games. This weekend was a wildly profitable one for them, and September might not be the ferociously tight thrill ride it looked likely to be a couple weeks ago. The deadline is passed, so the only decisions the team needs to make about the roster are about whether to call up certain prospects and how to balance the competing objectives of winning and keeping players fresh down the stretch. Given the increasing comfort of their position, maybe a bit less urgency is warranted than was when we pondered the team's standing a few weeks ago.
The Brewers don't have to win every game. To merely string together series victories, and especially to win at least half of those six games against the Cubs, ought to be Craig Counsell's focus now. If they manage it, the team can start looking ahead at their most likely Wild Card Series opponents--the Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Cubs. That last would be a fairly crazy series, as it would come on the heels of a season-ending series between the same two teams at Miller Park, so tensions and drama would have time to swell as though the series were a best-of-seven. The Brewers should hope that all that potential drama waits until then, because if it does, it almost certainly means that they've cruised to their third division title in six years.
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