MILWAUKEE -- Catcher Manny Piña is the longest-tenured Brewers player and has been part of each of the team’s four consecutive postseason entrants.
So Piña was uniquely positioned to answer whether this team is heading into the playoffs with any loftier goals than its predecessors. Two steps are complete; the Brewers clinched a postseason berth on Sept. 18, then clinched the National League Central eight days later. On Thursday night, the Brewers learned their opponent; they'll meet the Braves in a best-of-five NL Division Series.
“I feel the group in 2018 was similar,” Piña said, referring to a team that played all the way to a Game 7 of the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers. “Right now, our pitching staff is better than 2018. And the offense is there. I think October is going to be a special month.”
Here’s a look ahead:
What could the postseason roster look like?
After playing with a 28-man roster in September, teams revert to 26 players in the postseason. Injury issues make this tricky, and it’s unknown what breakdown of pitchers vs. hitters the Brewers will use, but using their 2018 NLDS roster as a guide (11 pitchers, 14 hitters) here’s an early shot at predicting what their 26-man roster could look like in a best-of-five NLDS if everyone heals up in time -- sans Devin Williams, who is out until a potential World Series at the absolute earliest due to a fractured pitching hand.
C: Omar Narváez, Manny Piña
1B: Rowdy Tellez, Daniel Vogelbach
2B: Kolten Wong
SS: Willy Adames
3B: Eduardo Escobar, Luis Urías
UTIL: Jace Peterson
OF: Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Avisaíl García, Jackie Bradley Jr., Tyrone Taylor
SP: Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser
RP: Josh Hader, Daniel Norris, Brad Boxberger, Jake Cousins, Brent Suter, Aaron Ashby, Hunter Strickland, Eric Lauer
Who are they going to face in the first round?
For weeks, the Brewers have been lined up for a showdown with the National League East champion in the NLDS, and with Atlanta’s win over the Phillies on Thursday night, that matchup was set. It will be Braves-Brewers, a meeting of Milwaukee’s first Major League team and its current Major League team, with Milwaukee hosting Games 1 and 2 and a potential Game 5, and Atlanta hosting Games 3 and 4.
The Brewers went 3-3 against the Braves during the regular season.
When do the playoffs start?
The NL Wild Card Game will take place on Oct. 6, with the Brewers watching from home. The best-of-five NL Division Series will follow, with Games 1 and 2 taking place on Oct. 8-9 at American Family Field. Games 3 and 4 (if necessary) are set for Oct. 11-12 at Atlanta’s Truist Park, and a potential Game 5 is scheduled for Oct. 14 back in Milwaukee. Game times typically are not announced until all of the Division Series matchups are set.
How do the starting pitchers line up?
To be determined. The Brewers' fortunes would seem to lie with a deep starting rotation led by Burnes, Woodruff and Peralta, but which also got significant contributions from Houser and Lauer. Manager Craig Counsell has not given any indication of an NLDS rotation, but Burnes is the presumptive favorite for Game 1 after becoming the first Brewers pitcher to win a league ERA title while also leading the league in strikeout rate, FIP, strikeouts to walks and any number of other pertinent categories. Woodruff and Peralta presumably would come next, then one of Houser, a right-hander who could help neutralize some of Atlanta’s dangerous right-handed power hitters, or Lauer, who owned a sub-3.00 ERA in more than 100 innings before giving up a Trea Turner grand slam in his season finale to push his ERA back over 3.00. Perhaps it will prove a tandem in one of those spots; the Brewers always seem to take a creative approach to pitching -- er, “out-getting" -- in the playoffs.
Any injuries of note?
The Brewers finished their final homestand with their overall health headed in the right direction before the disappointing news about Williams emerged during the final road trip. Shortstop Willy Adames and infielder Eduardo Escobar were back from stints on the injured list and logging at-bats heading into the postseason. Fellow reliever Jake Cousins landed on the IL in the Brewers’ waning days at home with a right biceps strain, but that injury was considered very minor, and the IL assignment was made out of caution in order to ensure Cousins would be available in the playoffs. First baseman Rowdy Tellez made it back to the big leagues for a productive final weekend of the regular season after dealing with a knee injury, and he looks ready to go for the postseason. Williams is the big loss; he will miss the NLDS and the NL Championship Series at minimum, and even a potential World Series return is in question.