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Brewers not surprised by fast start to season

PHILADELPHIA -- Most baseball teams that make it to the postseason will, at some point, suggest that few people outside its own clubhouse believed in them. Often this is revisionist history, at best. If the Brewers make the playoffs this season, it will be absolutely true.

The Cardinals and Pirates are the teams most experts picked to dominate the National League Central this season. The Reds got some support. The Brewers, not so much.

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There's still a lot of baseball to be played this season. But after sweeping the defending World Series champion Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Brew Crew at least qualifies as a pleasant early-season surprise after ruining the Phillies' home opener with a convincing 10-4 win at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday.

At 5-2, Milwaukee sits at the top of the division after their first 4-0 road start since winning their first seven away from home in 1987.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who reached base four times on two doubles, a single and a walk, was asked if he thought the Brewers were starting to open some eyes around baseball.

"Maybe. But we're not surprising ourselves," Lucroy said. "We knew we were good. We hit. We can throw. Obviously we can hit and play defense. I think we've got a great club here. If people are surprised by us, then they're not doing their homework."

Teams that win tend to pick each other up. The Brewers did that Tuesday. During the first week of the season, their starting pitchers (Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta) combined for a 1.64 ERA and held opponents to a .196 batting average.

Lohse struggled his second time out, allowing three runs on seven hits and five walks in five innings. No sweat. The offense, powered by Ryan Braun's three homers, had its most productive game of the young season.

"It's one of those things where we kind of play off each other. If we're not pitching the best one day, then we're going to hit and play defense, and vice-versa," Lucroy said.

Lohse said in Spring Training that he thought the Brewers had a "sneaky shot," and nothing that's happened so far has changed his mind.

"We don't care what anybody outside thinks, to be honest with you," he said. "We knew coming into camp we were deep in the rotation, we were deep in the lineup. It was time to turn the page on last year. We don't care what anybody thinks. We come here every day and forget about the last one and try to get the job done. It's a fun group to play with. We try to keep it simple like that."

Braun said it's important to keep seven games in perspective, but didn't downplay the importance of what has been accomplished so far.

"It's exciting and encouraging, especially since the last couple years we've gotten off to really poor starts," he said. "Our division is so good. There are so many great teams that we don't have the luxury of digging ourselves a big hole and having any realistic chance of digging ourselves out of it.

"So we need to get off to a good start. Obviously there's no reason to be overly excited or overly optimistic. But we feel good about our team. We really do."

Winning three straight in Boston could be a springboard to bigger and better things.

"Absolutely. It was an extremely exciting series. An encouraging series," Braun said. "You go in and sweep the defending champions for their home opener. That's extremely difficult to do. Especially for some of the young guys here to be able to say, 'Hey, we're good. We have a really good team and we have a chance, if we continue to play good baseball, to have a good season.'"

While pitching may have carried the team to this point -- the bullpen has allowed just three earned runs in 21 2/3 innings, a 1.25 ERA -- there is also a quiet confidence that the lineup will be a strength as the season wears on.

"I know teams don't like facing us, because we're going to run, we're going to hit, guys are aggressive and make contact. Other teams don't like that," Lucroy said.

Added manager Ron Roenicke: "Guys really came out swinging the bats well [Tuesday], and really all through the lineup. When I talk about the deep lineup, it was deep today. And I think we need to do that. I'm not saying we're to score this amount of runs all the time, but I think we need to get production all the way through to that eight spot. If we can do that, I think we're going to pitch well all year. And hopefully that's what happens."

The Brewers won't have to wait long to see how they stack up head to head against the favored teams in their division, either. After the Phillies series is over, they go home to play the Pirates and the Cardinals, and then go to Pittsburgh for a four-game series.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for

Milwaukee Brewers, Ryan Braun, Kyle Lohse, Jonathan Lucroy