This Year’s Cardinals
@GusMerwin-COMMENTARY
amarc543@uwsp.edu
Things are getting weird. In a good way.
 
Because Major League Baseball expanded the playoffs to include a second wild card spot to be fought over, the Brewers currently have a legitimate chance of climbing back from the depths.
 
After Tuesday’s 5-0 win over the number one wild card team Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee became a .500 team again. In addition to the Brewers win, the three teams ahead of them; St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh, lost.
 
St. Louis is banged up, the Dodgers aren’t capitalizing on the talent that they’ve acquired, and Pittsburgh, after a strong season, is reminding us that they’re still Pittsburgh.
 
Milwaukee and Philadelphia, who also won last night and is tied with the Brewers at four games behind the Cardinals, are the hottest teams in the league right now and have a chance to make a late push.
 
Much like the Cardinals last season, the Brewers and Phillies are getting hot at the right time. I’m not saying either team is going to go out of their mind right now and make a push to the World Series.
 
Milwaukee’s bullpen has pitched better of late, but I still don’t have total faith in their ability to finish games.
 
Cory Hart’s injured foot could not have come at a worse time. His performance at first base has been stellar considering his lack of experience at the position, and he has strung together one of the most consistent seasons of his career at the plate.
 
Early word was that Hart would try to play despite the injury, but as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported via twitter backup catcher Martin Maldonado was taking ground balls at first on Wednesday, which isn’t a positive sign.
 
The good news is the Brewers offense is showing signs of where they were at last season. With Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks coming on strong for the final stretch, Ryan Braun no longer has to spark nearly every run.
 
Carlos Gomez has come up huge for Milwaukee, answering his doubters by having his best season hitting since he arrived from the Twins. Offseason acquisition Norichika Aoki has served as this season’s Nyjer Morgan, both defensively and offensively.
 
The Brewers do have one advantage over any other team in the National League, and that is their homerun capability. For the second season in a row, Milwaukee is atop the leader board in homeruns with 179, 38 from Braun who leads the National League.
The ability to hit the long ball is increasingly important down the stretch and as you get into the playoffs. Considering Milwaukee’s flair for late inning theatrics, reminiscent of the World Champion San Francisco Giants of 2010, having guys who are a threat to go deep during any at bat can be the difference between a trophy and a trip home. Look at the impact David Freese made last season for St. Louis.
 
Hopefully the pitching can keep up with the offensive output. It doesn’t matter if Yovani Gallardo tosses six scoreless innings and the Brewers rack up eight runs, if the bullpen comes in and throws the same batting practice they have most of the season it’s going to be hard to continue gaining ground on the Cardinals.
 
The Brewers have a chance to salvage a season that many wrote off as all but over. The planets need to align and their bullpen needs continue to not blow games, but don’t count out Milwaukee or Philly just yet.