The Milwaukee Brewers had a pretty magical 2018 season and with a team of returning veterans, they looked poised to do it again this year. Too bad the reigning NL Central champs are in one of the tightest division races in the nation at the moment. Currently the Cubs are leading – but not by much – and the Cardinals are right there with them. At the All Star Break, the Brewers were feeling optimistic and, according to players, ready to break away from the pack. But no other team in their division is going to back down easily and the Brewers are starting to look a little short-handed.
This week hasn’t been great for Milwaukee. After a tough few games against the Cincinnati Reds at home – hey, a 14-6 blowout isn’t a good look for anybody! – fans have started to question whether Milwaukee has what it takes to get to the postseason. And if not, will they make some trades to get there?
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What the Brewers Have Going For Them
Milwaukee still has last year’s National League MVP in Christian Yelich who has been batting well and knocking home runs as usual, increasing his season total 35 last week and throwing in a grand slam for good measure against the Atlanta Braves.
Another positive? Josh Hader, the Brewers’ southpaw pitcher with an unhittable fast ball. Hader has struck out fifty percent of batters he’s faced this season – that’s absurd. He’s one of the few bright spots in the Brewers’ pitching rotation these days. When Hader was unavailable on Monday night, it showed. They’ve also got Chase Anderson who has been able to cover pitching duties pretty well lately, holding off the Reds for five and a half innings, striking out six, and posting a 2.45 ERA in his last five starts. Last week, he picked up his 50th career victory.
After a slow start to the season (especially compared to last year) slugger first baseman Jesus Aguilar has started to produce more in July. As an integral part of this team, that could be a good sign for the Brewers if he can keep it up. If not, the Rays are reportedly interested in him…
Another guy who is hoping momentum is on his side is Tyler Saladino. He hit grand slams in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday. Saladino has been called “the unlikeliest slugger on the Brewers’ roster” and he’s taken a lot of abuse on social media for his low batting average, but hopefully this will give him a little confidence, and as he says, “clarity” on how to approach batting in the future. For the team’s sake, we’ve got our fingers crossed.
First-round draft pick Keston Huira is also exceeding expectations with his hot bat as of late. On Sunday, he got two more hits, which brings his hitting streak to 11 games and overall batting average to .331. Huira has nine home runs and 23 RBI and so far he’s looking confident. Batting coach Andy Haines thinks this is going to be a long-term too. When discussing Huira’s recent accomplishments, he said, “That kind of breeds confidence that this is not a short burst. This guy is an elite hitter who already is showing an ability to make adjustments at the big-league level. It’s been fun to watch.” Huira was just named National League Player of the Week too!
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What They’re Lacking
Tuesday marked the Reds’ fifth-straight win over the Brewers. But Milwaukee suffered an even bigger blow to their postseason hopes on Sunday with the loss of starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff. The MLB All Star has been moved to the injured list due to an oblique strain and it looks like he’ll be out for about six weeks. (FYI, there are only nine weeks left in the regular season, so that’s not great.) The loss of Woodruff, although temporary, likely means that Milwaukee will need to trade for a new starting pitcher if they want to keep their postseason hopes alive. He’s basically been their ace all season.
Their pitching rotation hasn’t been the best… even before losing Woodruff. Jhoulys Chacin has had a terrible season. Gio Gonzalez is now back from the injured list after two months off the mound, but he hasn’t given the team much reassurance, pitching just 5 innings per outing. Adrian Houser had been filling in for Gonzalez, but he hasn’t shown much promise as a starter or reliever. Freddy Peralta hasn’t been too healthy or effective either.
It was going to be tough to retain their status as NL Central Champs without Woodruff, but now the Wild Card spot will be a stretch if they can’t manage to replace him.
Will the Brewers Make Any Trades?
The Brewers have only been to the World Series once, and they’ve never won it. But they got close last year and many fans want to keep the dream alive. So what do they need to do to get to the postseason? In a word: Pitching! They lacked depth before this weekend, and now things are looking a bit dire. They need a starter and GM David Stearns is on the lookout.
Rumor has it that the Brewers have inquired about right-hander Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays and left-hander Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers. But they’ll have competition, because the Astros, Yankees, Twins, Athletics, and Phillies are also interested in those guys.
And who will they trade away? Aguilar’s name has been tossed around. And they certainly don’t want to lose Huira…
They don’t have much time to regroup though. This weekend, get ready for some intense action as the Brewers take on the Cubs in a three-game series at Miller Park. (Yup, we’ve got tickets available!) These are critical games for both teams, as the Cubs look to break away from the rest of the NL Central and the Brewers look to up their division standings. Then Milwaukee faces the Oakland A’s in three games before heading to Chicago to battle the Cubs again – this time at Wrigley on August 2nd!
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