MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers beat the Padres on Thursday afternoon, affording anyone interested the opportunity to watch the opener of a supercharged four-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs that night. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell instead kept tabs on high school football. Counsell can hear the sounds of his alma
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers beat the Padres on Thursday afternoon, affording anyone interested the opportunity to watch the opener of a supercharged four-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs that night. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell instead kept tabs on high school football. Counsell can hear the sounds of his alma mater’s gridiron games from his patio.
“I'm actively looking for distractions,” Counsell said, cracking a smile.
There was a reason he was talking high school football before the Brewers began their final regular-season home series. While what happens down Interstate 94 at Wrigley Field surely has implications for the Brewers, the more important task is at Miller Park. The Brewers need to keep winning. Counsell is intent on keeping his club focused on that.
And win they did Friday night, 10-1 over the sinking Pirates to give Counsell 400 regular season wins as manager of his hometown team. The Brewers got six scoreless innings from Chase Anderson, two hits, two runs scored and an RBI from Mike Moustakas, a three-run triple from rookie Trent Grisham and plenty of help from the visitors to win for the 13th time in 15 games and the 16th time in 20 games.
• Box score
Milwaukee remained three games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central standings and one game behind the NL Wild Card-leading Nationals after those teams each won Friday. But the Brewers, who currently hold the second NL Wild Card, did put another game between themselves and the Cubs, who fell two games back with eight to play.
“I think this month we’re proving that we’re a really good team,” Anderson said.
Before taking care of business against the Pirates, some Brewers players were debating the preferred outcome of the Cardinals-Cubs clashes, of which there are five more in the next nine days. The strongest argument seemed to be in favor of the Cardinals losing as many of those games as possible, increasing the Brewers’ chances of winning the division to avoid the coin flip nature of a Wild Card Game. But there’s also a case to be made for the Cardinals and Cubs trading blows, giving the Brewers a chance to win the division without being passed in the Wild Card standings, even should they falter against the Pirates, who Milwaukee has now defeated in 13 of 17 matchups this season, or on a season-ending road trip to Cincinnati and Colorado -- two more teams 20-plus games under .500.
Counsell was not particularly interested in joining the exercise.
“All this talk -- it doesn't matter to us, and I can't stress that enough,” Counsell said. “We still have a job to do and it's not an easy job. We still have to win a lot of these games. We have to go on a road trip that's going to be tough. I don't care what those teams' records are, it's going to be a tough road trip. We're going to see some good pitching in Cincinnati, I can promise you that.
“It's really just about us taking care of everything we can do every single day to win a baseball game. We'll treat every game like it's really, really important and we'll do our best to win every one. At the end of the day, you can look at the scoreboard and see how the standings have changed but other than that, that's as much as we can do. We can't have any impact on what's going on down in Chicago. It's our job to take care of business here.”
Friday was a productive night in that department, when Counsell’s 400th victory wasn’t the only notable number to emerge:
• The Brewers scored in double digits for the first time in more than a month, since a 14-inning, 15-14 win at Washington in Milwaukee’s wildest game of the season.
• Ryan Braun joined Robin Yount and Paul Molitor as the only players to hit 400 doubles in a Brewers uniform.
• It was even a good night for injured Christian Yelich, who took the lead for the NL batting title after Washington’s Anthony Rendon went 0-for-4. Yelich compiled enough plate appearances to qualify before a fractured kneecap ended his season on Sept. 10.
The Brewers are 8-2 without him because of their pitching. Anderson continued the trend on Friday, when the Brewers rested their “A” relievers including Josh Hader thanks to three runs in the sixth inning and four more in the seventh, and still lowered the staff’s ERA to 3.11 in September. Of the 30 MLB teams, only the Cardinals (2.78) have pitched better since rosters expanded.
“Anderson had his stuff tonight,” said Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier, whose homer off Devin Williams in the seventh inning accounted for Pittsburgh’s only run. “When he’s on, he’s really good. When he’s not, that’s usually when we can get a homer or two off of him. But he had it tonight.”
The Brewers have had it for a while now.
“We have a chance to win the division,” catcher Manny Piña said. “We have to play against Cincinnati and Colorado, and [the Cardinals] have to play against Arizona before getting the Cubs again. They are a tough team, so we have a lot of chances to win the division. I mean, we just need to keep winning.”
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.