MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers are in the last quarter of the 2022 season and it’s now or never for them to make a strong push for the postseason. With 37 games remaining, Milwaukee finds itself in unusual territory: looking up in the standings.
At this time a season ago, the club had a comfortable 7-1/2 game lead in the National League Central and were nearly playoff-guaranteed. This year, they entered Saturday six games behind the Cardinals in the division and 2 1/2 back of the Padres for the final Wild Card spot.
“Good team win,” Woodruff said. “Everybody did great, did their job and it was good to get a win.”
The Brewers’ recent month has been one that the team will hope to move past. On July 31, Milwaukee held a three-game lead over St. Louis and was in full control of the division. But 15 losses in 24 games have dropped its playoff chances from 89.6 percent to 38.7 percent since then, per FanGraphs.
Despite the multiple defeats, Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns remains confident in this group.
“We still control our own path, and I think it's important to remember that,” Stearns said pregame. “We're certainly giving the effort to do that. This is not an effort issue. Our guys have been playing really hard. We believe we are a playoff-caliber team, and I'm confident that we're going to show that over the next six weeks.”
The Brewers also believe they have what it takes to make it back to the postseason. They’ve been there four straight seasons and want to make it five.
“We’ve got a group that understands how to win and what it takes to win close Major League Baseball games, especially in August and September,” Yelich said. “We just haven’t been doing the things we need to do. We’ve still got a long way to go, so if we play well down the stretch, I like our chances.”
Saturday’s win saw this club's potential come around. Woodruff’s start mixed with Yelich, Kolten Wong and Willy Adames all homering powered the strong team win.
It’s moments like these that helped the Brewers over the years and will remain pivotal down the stretch.
“If we play the way we are capable of playing in this fourth quarter, we are going to be just fine,” Stearns said. “We also have to do that. We haven't done it now for a little while, and I think everyone recognizes that. It's time for us to play better. It's time for us to win games.”
Veterans like Yelich know what the team has to do to win these games. That winning formula and success is different for every team. In Milwaukee, it’s “just doing the little things.”
“It’s really hard to win a Major League Baseball game,” Yelich said. “You’ve got to do a lot of things right. A lot of guys have to play well. Team components. We’ve got a lot of guys who have been on postseason teams in this clubhouse. It’s just up to us to do those little things, bear well and do enough to get across the finish line.”
One of those key “little things” was Jace Peterson’s sacrifice bunt in the seventh inning to move runners over. In a tie game, Peterson laid down a bunt that eventually led to an errant throw by Cubs third baseman Christopher Morel. A run scored and later set up Yelich’s three-run homer.
“The line between winning and losing a game in the big leagues is really thin,” Yelich said. “Sometimes it’s just a couple of plays, and there’s a lapse in focus or things don’t go your way or you run into tough luck and it’s going to be hard for you.”
With the Cardinals and Padres both winning as well on Saturday, the Brewers didn’t gain any ground. The team understands that the room for error is thin now, but its shutout win could be a sign of what’s to come down the stretch.
“We know we’re going to have to play good baseball going into September and October if we want to have a chance to make the playoffs,” Woodruff said. “You never know, maybe tonight is the start of something pretty cool.”