MILWAUKEE -- Next stop for the hottest team in baseball: Wrigley Field.
The Brewers are riding an eight-game winning streak into a potentially pivotal three-game series at the second-place Cubs after scoring seven runs in a go-ahead sixth inning and then hanging on for a 10-6 victory over the Padres on Sunday afternoon at American Family Field.
Milwaukee matched its biggest inning all season to cap a homestand full of them. Since being held to three runs over three games while getting swept by the Dodgers on the last road trip, the Brewers are 8-0 and averaging 7.25 runs per game. In four of the games on this 5-0 homestand, they scored at least five runs in an inning.
Then there are the Cubs, who scored 10 runs in back-to-back victories in Pittsburgh over the weekend and have won seven of their last nine games. They sit four games back in the NL Central standings as the Brewers arrive Monday.
“I definitely think we’re the two best teams in the division right now,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said.
Don’t forget about the Reds, who are lurking just behind Chicago. But this week is about the Brewers and Cubs, no strangers to late-season drama after meeting in a Game 163 in 2018 at Wrigley Field. Then, ties in the standings were settled on the field. Now, it goes to head-to-head record in the regular season, adding additional drama to this series.
The Brewers have already won their season series against the Reds but still have six games remaining against the Cubs. Milwaukee has won four of the first seven matchups, including a four-game split at American Family Field when the clubs last met in July.
After the next three games in Chicago, the Brewers and Cubs meet once more -- in Milwaukee in the final series of the regular season, from Sept. 29-Oct.1.
“We’re at the stage right now where every series is a big series,” said Brewers left-hander Wade Miley, scheduled to start the series opener Monday opposite the Cubs’ Jameson Taillon.
They are to be followed by Corbin Burnes vs. fellow All-Star Justin Steele on Tuesday and Brandon Woodruff vs. Kyle Hendricks on Wednesday.
“At the same time,” Miley continued, “you can’t go in there putting too much on it. I think we learned that a little bit when we went to L.A. and maybe overcooked it a little bit. We went in there with a little too much ‘try.’ I don’t know if that’s the right word, but we put too much pressure on ourselves.”
After they walked off the field in the wake of a 1-0 loss in the Dodger Stadium finale, the Brewers had a brief meeting. The winning streak began the next night in Texas.
“When you have a meeting like that, if you even want to call it a meeting, it’s just a perspective check,” Yelich said. “There’s nothing you can say in a meeting that’s going to make you play better. If that was the case, there would be a lot of teams that play a lot better.”
Such gatherings are rare. Yelich estimated that there have been “fewer than double digit” clubhouse meetings since he arrived in 2018.
“It’s one of those things ‘Couns’ is really good at,” Yelich said of manager Craig Counsell. “He had a few words and then we kept it moving.”
Said Miley: “During that L.A. series, we were like, ‘We can’t play this way.’”
They’ve been a different team ever since. The Brewers won Sunday despite falling into a 4-1 deficit in the second inning and losing starter Adrian Houser to forearm tightness by the third. The game turned Milwaukee’s way after Bryse Wilson delivered four solid innings of emergency relief, and the Brewers made him a winner by taking five more walks while sending 12 men to the plate in their seven-run inning.
Rowdy Tellez’s pinch-hit, two-run double tied the game, and Carlos Santana’s bases-loaded walk provided the lead before Sal Frelick and Mark Canha tacked on two-run hits. Canha had two hits in that inning alone.
“We’re just kind of ‘offensing,’” Canha said. “We’re doing a little bit of everything.”
Besides Wilson, Hoby Milner also provided gutsy relief after rookie Abner Uribe completely lost the strike zone in the seventh inning, and Trevor Megill covered the final two innings. As a result, the Brewers will have their top three relievers -- Elvis Peguero, Joel Payamps and closer Devin Williams -- rested and ready for the Cubs.
“That was definitely in the back of my mind,” Wilson said. “Everybody knows this series is huge for us. We’re playing extremely well on both sides of the field.”
Regardless of what happens over the next three days, Yelich said, important games will remain.
But this next series should be fun.
“The energy is probably going to be pretty wild,” Yelich said.