MILWAUKEE -- By the time the Brewers take the field Tuesday night against the Cardinals, a week will have passed since their last hit with a runner in scoring position. That fact surprised the team's top run producer.
"A week -- I didn't realize it was that long," said third baseman Travis Shaw in the wake of Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Cubs at Miller Park. "A week without a hit with runners in scoring position, that's not really acceptable. We have to find a way to cash in on those opportunities."
They remained unable to do so Sunday, when Jett Bandy's groundout and Zach Davies' flyout with two runners aboard in the second inning represented the Brewers' only chances to snap a drought with runners in scoring position that grew to 0-for-18 in the series and 0-for-31 dating back to Domingo Santana's run-scoring single on Tuesday at Nationals Park.
That's a franchise record for clutch futility, surpassing 0-for-30 stretches for 1987's "Team Streak" and the 106-loss Brewers of 2002.
The Brewers have seen a 5 1/2-game lead over the Cubs turn into a 2 1/2-game deficit in the span of 15 days, largely because their run-production has dried up. Milwaukee was eighth in the Majors and fifth in the National League with 4.96 runs per game before the All-Star break, and is tied for 27th in the Majors and next-to-last in the NL with 3.5 runs per game since.
It remains home run or bust, and the home runs have dried up as well. The Brewers were fourth in MLB and led the NL with 1.52 homers per game before the break, and are 11th in the NL with 1.13 homers since. Couple that with a recent inability to find a base hit with a runner in scoring position, and you have a club that has lost 11 of its last 14 games.
The timing of the Brewers' offensive outage is interesting. It came after they surged into the All-Star break with an 11-2 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, followed by a series win at Yankee Stadium that seemed to put Milwaukee on the national baseball map as a serious contender.
Could be it a case of young players, many of whom are playing in their first pennant race, thinking a bit too much?
"I don't see that as a sign for me," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We've been incredibly efficient scoring runs. It's a little rough patch. We'll get out of it. I'm confident we'll score runs. That's something I feel really good about. I still think we're a good offensive team."
Said rookie outfielder Lewis Brinson, who was 0-for-8 in the series: "There are a lot of confident guys in here, a lot of young guys. A lot of guys haven't been through it yet, but I'm one of those guys and you just take it as a regular game. You try to slow the ballgame down."
The Brewers have an off-day Monday before the Cardinals come to Miller Park beginning Tuesday night. The Cardinals suddenly find themselves within two games of the 55-52 Brewers.
"I think it's just going to take one hit, one guy, one situation," Shaw said. "Somebody coming through in a big spot, and then hopefully it will snowball from there. Hitting is contagious. We just need to find an opportunity to break through."