Five months ago, people might have thought you were bonkers if you thought the Milwaukee Brewers would be 2.5 games out of a playoff spot on September 1.
The chill of fall is in the air, and somehow, the 2017 Milwaukee Brewers are in playoff contention.
As they face the National League East-leading Washington Nationals in game two oof a four-game series at Miller Park tonight (6:35 p.m. on WTMJ), they sit 2.5 games behind Colorado for the final Wild Card berth and 3.5 behind the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central lead. Plus
That “somehow?” Fox Sports Wisconsin analyst and 620 WTMJ “Brewers Extra Innings” contributor Jerry Augustine has a one-word answer.
Milwaukee has won 7 of its last 11 games (all but eight games against playoff contenders). They've given up four runs or fewer in nine of those games.
One big piece to the Brewers' puzzle has been starter Zach Davies, the NL co-leader in wins with 16.
“Lately, he's been fantastic,” said Augustine. He believes Davies struggled to find himself in the early part of 2017, with the offense picking up the slack to assist him.
Now, he's in his groove.
“He commands the plate. He has excellent command of his fastball,” said Davies.
“What's really made a difference is that he's pitching with better pace and rhythm and his breaking ball and change-up have been excellent.”
Moving forward, the Brewers will play 28 games – seven against the NL Central-leading Cubs.
To get to the promised land, Augustine believes manager Craig Counsell will take some unusual steps with a starting pitching staff that may not have so-far weak link Matt Garza in as often, and with creative uses of personnel like bullpen pitchers and even call-ups from AAA Colorado Springs who could serve well in particular matchups.
“Craig says that so many times: How do you get 27 outs? They're going to go by pitching matchups: Who matches up best against the team they're facing?” said Augustine.
“When you have young people down below who can come up and give you innings, it allows you to do that.”