Looking ahead, the Milwaukee Brewers and rookie manager Ron Roenicke couldn’t have a more favorable road to the postseason.
In the month of September, Milwaukee will do battle with just two ballclubs — St. Louis and Philadelphia — with a winning percentage above .500. The Brewers will also have the luxury of finishing their September schedule at home. With a 99.3 percent chance of making the postseason according to ESPN, the Brewers have put themselves in an ideal position heading down the stretch.
Let’s break down each series in the regular season’s final month as well as the “x-factor” to winning each series.
@ St. Louis Cardinals
Tony La Russa and company managed to pummel their way towards a sweep of Milwaukee in the final days of August — marking the first such time the Brewers allowed a home sweep in 2011. These to foes will clash in St. Louis in a three-game set September 5-7, and will have immense playoff implications.
At Busch Stadium this season, the Brewers own a 3-3 combined record, and have not allowed more than six runs in any game. Keeping St. Louis’ “big three” in Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman in check will be critical to coming away with a series victory.
Vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Finally — a chance for Brewers fans to compare their club with the best of the best.
Ryan Howard, Hunter Pence and Chase Utley lead a frightening Philadelphia lineup that, surprisingly enough, has underachieved for most the regular season. Couple that with a stellar starting rotation and steadily progressing bullpen, and the Brewers will have their hands full.
Back in April, Milwaukee took two of three from Charlie Manuel and company, outscoring the Phillies 19-6 during the three-game set. Pitching will be at a premium, so if nothing else, expect a low-scoring series at Miller Park.
Vs. Colorado Rockies
Milwaukee will face off with the slowly fading Colorado Rockies in a two-game set at Miller Park following their all-important series with Philadelphia.
In May, the Brewers managed to sweep Colorado in a tightly-contested series at home while outscoring Jim Tracy’s crew by a marginal 13-9 mark. Traditionally, the Rockies have thrived in September. Without the presence of former ace Ubaldo Jimenez, however, Colorado has a slim chance at repeating their unprecedented run at the postseason like that of 2007.
@ Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati came into 2011 with high hopes of repeating as NL Central champs, but for whatever reason, they haven’t been able to keep pace with Milwaukee and St. Louis atop the division. Yet despite their struggles, the Reds have kept Milwaukee in check — holding true to a 8-5 record against the Brewers in the regular season.
Offensively, the Reds are a juggernaut. Joey Votto, who is batting .383 with 4 HR and 11 RBI against Milwaukee this season, will (as always) be a threat to break out the long-ball. A healthy Jay Bruce, who is batting .360 with 5 HR and 12 RBI, doesn’t make matters any better.
Pitching has been Cincinnait’s downfall, however. Ranking 21st in the NL in team ERA (4.12) and 15th in BAA (.255), the Reds haven’t been nearly as intimidating on the mound as 2010. By and large, this will be a decisive series for Milwaukee as the pennant races heat up.
@ Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have had Milwaukee’s number over the past few seasons, but not so in 2011. In 13 total games played between the two clubs, the Brewers are 9-4, including sweeping Chicago on two separate occasions.
When the two classic foes take to Wrigley Field in late September, it will be Milwaukee’s last road series of the season, so there will obviously be major implications baring any slip-up from Ron Roenicke’s club.
Aramis Ramirez has had a solid season by all accounts, amassing 24 HR, 83 RBI and a .306 BA. The lack of consistent pitching has hurt Mike Quade’s crew tremendously, though.
Prince Fielder has played some of his best ball at Wrigley Field over the last three seasons, managing a .360 BA, 4 HR, and 20 RBI at the friendly confines. Expect a high output of runs in this three-game set.
Vs. Florida Marlins
The Marlins are a hard team to figure in that, at times, they are brilliant offensively but haven’t been able to harness their full potential thus far in 2011.
This works out perfectly for the Brewers.
Now sitting in the cellar of the NL East, Florida has struggled to find their rhythm with the bats. Without ace Josh Johnson in the rotation, they haven’t been breathtaking on the mound, either. If Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder can get back into the swing of things (pun intended), Milwaukee should be in great position heading into the regular season series finale against Pittsburgh.
Milwaukee swept Florida in a four-game set back in early June.
Vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
For a good portion of the regular season, the Pirates attempted to stake their claim as true contenders in the NL Central, only to fall back into the middle of the pack — now 18.5 games out of first place.
Don’t expect these feisty Bucs to law down to Milwaukee, though. Clint Hurdle is the type of manager that rallies around being deemed “the underdog”. And if there’s one thing on Pittsburgh’s mind, it’s ruining Milwaukee’s playoff aspirations.
However, with Kevin Correia on the 15-day disabled list, Pittsburgh will be short-handed to come away with a series victory in Milwaukee.