(WFRV)– As the big league baseball season starts their unofficial second half, only 4 and half games separate all five teams in the NL Central. Last year the Brewers and Cubs mashed it out all the way to the point where they needed game number 163 to decide the division. And Milwaukee not only beat Chicago on the road to secure the top seed in the postseason, they also clinched their playoff spot in St. Louis. Which means they have two bitter enemies within close ranks, instead of just one. The organization made the huge moves of bringing in both Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain last year and they clearly provided major dividends. This has been Ryan Braun’s team for a very long time, but the torch has been officially passed from the former MVP, to the current one. And Yelich knows that his team has a long way to go if they want to have an encore performance following last year’s postseason run.
“All the teams are in a position to compete here down the stretch. It’s about who executes, it really is.” Said Yelich. “It should be a fun race into September and hopefully everyone is still around. It will be a great atmospheres in some of those ballparks.“
Yelich is coming off the midsummer classic and he leads the entire league with 31 home runs, but he inconspicuously withdrew from the home run derby, yet still played in the All-Star game itself. The Brewers outfielder not only had the chance to play beside the Dodgers Cody Bellinger in the outfield, and he happens to be his biggest challenger for MVP, Bellinger plays for the team that ousted Milwaukee in game 7 of the NLCS last fall. But there were no hard feelings.
“I was friends with him before we came out here. They had us doing a lot of stuff out there, which is cool. It’s great to promote the game. It’s good for baseball. It’s not a fake friendship. You’re out there having fun and trying to play with the best players in the world, and enjoying the experience that comes with the All-Star game, and you don’t take it for granted,” Yelich said. “You never know when it’s your last one. We had a lot of fun.”
And now the real fun begins as the Brewers try to figure out a way to separate themselves from the NL Central pack. As has often been the case, the biggest markets generally have better records than everyone else. The Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, and Braved all lead their divisions by six games or more with the Twins holding almost the same margin in the AL Central.
“We put ourselves in a good position to have a meaningful second-half and be in the race. We’ve got to continue to play well. I don’t think we have played our best down the stretch, and we’ve got a great division. Every game is tough. It’s going to come down to the wire like it did last year, and it’s about executing and really not giving any games away.”
What’s next for the Crew? The MLB trade deadline is coming up on July 31. Do they go out and spend a little money to get someone that will be a difference maker? Or do they trade a couple of big-name players with high priced contracts and “look to the future?” It sounds like a broken record but Milwaukee needs some help on the mound if they plan on competing for a playoff spot because they are definitely not as strong as a staff compared to last season. The Brewers are 11th in the National League in ERA, and have given up the 4th most earned runs in the entire league. It’s pretty clear they need another starting pitcher, which they should’ve acquired in the off-season. Add that to what Brandon Woodruff and Zach Davies have offered at this point, and you can make some major adjustments to the entire staff down the line. The middle of the lineup could have a solid starter who eats up innings, and in the infamous words of Craig Counsell is a solid “out-getter”. This would also relieve Josh Hader from always going for the 6-out save, and literally save his arm for later in the year. We all saw what happened to Jeremy Jeffrey’s last season, and it would behoove the Brewers to lighten the load as the season progresses.