MILWAUKEE -- The margin of error for teams looking to get into the postseason is zero and the little things can be the difference between sneaking into the playoffs and watching it at home. As the Brewers inch closer to punching their ticket for October, that message is loud and clear.
“That’s how we’re treating it and that’s how we’ve treated it for a long time,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. ”It’s not easy. We say every game is the biggest game of the year, but treating it like that is sometimes mentally taxing. I think our guys have handled that challenge exceptionally well.”
Milwaukee kept up its winning ways in a 10-1 win over the Pirates on Saturday night at Miller Park. The Brewers’ magic number sits at five games, after the Cubs’ loss to the Cardinals earlier in the day.
“They say we lost our MVP to the kneecap and guys have stepped up in his absence,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain said. “That’s what we’re going to need to get where we want to be. Guys continuing to play well. You know me, I’m not satisfied until we’re in, for sure.”
That mentality Cain speaks of is one that is apparent in the Brewers’ clubhouse, as Milwaukee has been the hottest team in baseball. The Brewershave won 14 of their last 16 games and are 10-2 since Christian Yelich went down with a fractured kneecap.
The team’s hot stretch has even given Counsell the leeway to be aggressive early in games -- a method that proved to be valuable during Saturday’s victory.
Trying to push across a run with two runners on and one out in the fourth inning, the Brewers’ skipper opted to have Travis Shaw pinch-hit for starter Zach Davies. After Shaw worked a walk to load the bases, the Brewers scored a pair of runs on walks by Trent Grisham and Mike Moustakas for a 5-1 lead. The offense poured it on after that, adding five insurance runs across the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to take a commanding 10-1 lead. Rookie standouts Grisham and Keston Hiura homered.
“I thought we had a chance to break the game open,” Counsell said. "We ended up getting four at-bats with the bases loaded that inning. That gave us some space which I thought was important.”
Chasing the Cubs has become standard operating procedure for the Brewers in September. After edging Chicago in 2018 for the National League Central crown, they’ve done the same thing this season and have now begun to create space over their division rival in the NL Wild Card race.
“It’s kind of similar to last year, in that every day is that must-win and it accentuates our play, which has been a calling card [for us] these last couple of runs,” reliever Brent Suter said. “Really, the last three Septembers have been like that. It’s a good mindset to have.”
“I think we have experience from last year, knowing that we can come back from a deficit like this,” said Davies, who allowed one unearned run on three hits. “I think everybody is focused on the task at hand and you have to win as many games as you can.”
While the Brewers see what’s going on, they know getting off track and looking at the progress of other teams is not what’s gotten them to this point.
“We notice, but all we can do is control what we can control here and get the job done and get wins,” Suter said. “All that will take care of itself if we just keep winning games, so that’s what we have to do.”