With October in reach, these storylines may define the Brewers final stretch

September 1st, 2021

With last night’s win in San Francisco, the Brewers extended their division lead to 10 games – a feat they’ve accomplished just once before in franchise history (2011).

While the team finds itself in the driver’s seat for its fourth-straight postseason appearance, there are still 29 games left on the schedule, and the players have preached the need to stay focused.

Entering the final full month of play, here are three things to watch as the Brewers look to finish strong and earn a spot in October.

Can Yelich Stay Hot?

Amidst a successful August, the Brewers went 19-9 for the month, Yelich’s recent hot streak stands out as one of the biggest developments.

The former MVP has produced in a big way of late, currently holding a 10-game hitting streak while raising his batting average over 20 percentage points (now .257) in August.

The question now becomes whether Yelich sustain his vintage level of play through the homestretch, and there are some encouraging signs.

First and foremost, Yelich is making significantly better contact of late. Over his last 19 games, he’s averaging an exit velocity of 93.2 mph, a sizable increase over his season average of 91.2. He’s also elevating the ball at a higher clip, averaging a launch angle of seven degrees versus his season mark of 4.8 degrees. The latter has led to increased power, with Yelich producing nine extra-base hits during that stretch.

If Yelich can continue to make hard contact and elevate the ball, he can help push the Brewers over the top in their hunt to win the division – and beyond.

Could the Brewers Have a Cy Young Winner?

A Cy Young race is brewing, and not just across Major League Baseball. The Brewers have a Cy Young race brewing within their own club house.

The conversation begins with Corbin Burnes. After finishing sixth in Cy Young voting last year, he has an even better case in 2021.

Burnes leads all MLB starters in several crucial stats – Fielding Independent Pitching (1.58), strikeouts per nine innings (12.2), walks per nine (1.7), and home runs per nine (0.3). Combine that with a sparkling 2.27 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, and Burnes has claim as baseball’s most unhittable starter.

Meanwhile, Woodruff, a two-time All-Star, continues to stand out as one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers. After stifling the Giants on Tuesday, Woodruff ranks third in the NL in ERA (2.35), third in ERA+ (177), fourth in strikeouts (185) and fourth in WHIP (0.94). On top of leading one of baseball’s top pitching staffs, those numbers should elevate Woodruff toward the top of the list.

The Brewers haven’t won a Cy Young Award since Pete Vuckovich in 1982. That may change if Burnes and Woodruff can sustain their numbers over the final month.

Lights-Out Bullpen Gets Reinforcement

The Brewers have rightfully generated a lot of buzz this season for their star-studded rotation. But the team’s bullpen has been electric in its own right.

The back-end trio of Josh Hader, Devin Williams, and Brad Boxberger ranks among the best high-leverage groups in the league, with each member of the trio boasting an ERA under 2.30. Supported by standout performances from Jake Cousins (0.78 ERA), Hunter Strickland (2.63) and Brent Suter (3.15 ERA), the group has formed a deep and intimidating run prevention unit.

Now, with rosters expanding by two spots in September, the unit should get even more help. Relievers Justin Topa, Miguel Sanchez, and Jandel Gustave are all candidates to get some run in September, all of whom have flashed potential to make an impact at the Big League level.

Look for manager Craig Counsell to get creative with his pitching staff to get his key arms some rest down the stretch.