At long last, my Milwaukee Brewers may have returned to prominence!
Note the "may". After snapping their four-game skid and finally closing the deal against the Phillies today, they're still holding a 5-game lead (on Houston) and have shrunk their magic number to 116.
OK, maybe that's pushing the optimism envelope a bit far. But the Crew has either had - or been within about a game of - the best record in MLB all season. And if the Journal-Sentinel's story on the rising demand for Brewer merchandise is any indication, it's time for fans to start tuning in. And in this season that the team is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its World Series appearance and only postseason date, is there any baseball city in America that celebrates a team that LOST the World Series like Milwaukee and Wisconsin? ... I don't think so.
Through six full weeks of the still-young season, they've proven they can dominate a suddenly mediocre-at-best NL Central (going 17-6 in a 23-game stretch through April). I have a feeling they're in for a shootout with the Cubs at some point, though, who virtually match their team batting average (about .270) and team ERA (both around 3.70). Given the way they play against each other and fill each other's stadiums, this could be good.
The Crew's starting rotation - Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, Dave Bush, Claudio Vargas, Jeff Suppan - is as solid front-to-back as anyone's in the league. Interestingly, Sheets has been the weakest of the bunch.
The one thing the Brewers need to shore up - and the one area where the Cubs dominate them - is their hitting with runners in scoring position. Last season, when they won just 75 games, they batted around .240 with RISP, which put them in the bottom third of the league. Well, they're not much better this year, hovering between .240 and .250 again, which again puts them in the bottom third of the league. They'll need to raise that about 30 points to really start putting teams away.
And, perhaps most importantly, more Brewer wins might mean more exposure for these guys.
On a completely unrelated note, is there any cooler song, right now, tonight, than "Gone Away" by The Offspring?