The Brewers were flying high after their game on August 19th in the glow of a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays which extended their winning streak to five, three of which had been on the road against the Dodgers. Their 71-55 record tied them for the most wins in the NL, and they were 2.5 games up on the Cardinals in the standings. Unfortunately, August 20th dawned, and the Brewers went on a 3-15 skid through Monday, September 8th and as of this writing are on the outside looking in for making the playoffs. What happened to what had been such a promising season, and what are the chances they can still make the playoffs?
The Brewers' batting was average in this stretch, but the pitching was less than stellar, with a 5.61 ERA. They had the usual aches and pains every team has at this point in the season but no major injuries. This table shows how every team has performed since August 20th (entering Wednesday):
BR=base runners BRs=base runners scored
Scoring almost fifty runs fewer than your opponents is one way to lose a lot of games, and the reason for this disparity can be seen in the number of base runners. Milwaukee was near the bottom in the number of base runners and near the "top" in the number of base runners allowed. On average around 14 percent of base runners score, and this table breaks it down by base state for 2014:
Runners score more often the closer they are to home, to the surprise of absolutely no one. The Brewers weren't getting on base, and their opponents reached base 100 times more than they did and scored in a greater percentage of opportunities. That's one way to go 3-15.
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Luckily for the Brewers, no one else in the National League appears to want the fifth playoff spot. As of this writing (entering Wednesday's action) it will take around 84 wins (the link is updated daily) to secure the final spot, meaning the Brewers have to go 10-7 in their last 17 games, and there's nothing structural to preclude them from finishing strong.
Their core of Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun is healthy, as are pitchers Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo. Only six of their remaining games are against opponents with records better than .500, three road games each against the Cardinals and Pirates.
Every team runs into a rough stretch at some time in the season, sometimes even near the end. The 2005 White Sox had to fend off a very hot Indians team until the very end and were lights-out in the postseason on their way to winning the World Series. Conversely, the 2011 Red Sox famously went on a spectacular slide near this point of the season that certainly cost them a playoff spot and quite possibly Adrian Gonzalez the MVP award.
In Tuesday's game, Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez had consecutive at-bats with the bases loaded in which they grounded into a forceout (to former Brewer Casey McGehee, as it happened):
By losing this game they ran their streak to 3-16, as well as losing two in a row to the Marlins. It's not over for the Brewers, but if they can't turn things around and play like they were during the first 120 games of the season, these two at-bats might end up being the poster of the season -- a very good team that came up short when it mattered most. Many factors are in the Brewers' favor on paper -- their job is to turn paper probabilities into tangible results.
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All data from Baseball-Reference
Scott Lindholm lives in Davenport, IA. Follow him on Twitter @ScottLindholm.