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Braun good for WC; Cain (ankle) trending up

@AdamMcCalvy
September 29, 2019

DENVER -- Ryan Braun and the Brewers expect the veteran left fielder to be in the lineup for Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game against the Nationals after he sat out a pair of weekend games at Coors Field with a left calf strain, while Lorenzo Cain’s sprained left ankle

DENVER -- Ryan Braun and the Brewers expect the veteran left fielder to be in the lineup for Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game against the Nationals after he sat out a pair of weekend games at Coors Field with a left calf strain, while Lorenzo Cain’s sprained left ankle was trending in the right direction.

The Brewers have Monday to rest up before manager Craig Counsell sets his starting lineup on Tuesday at Nationals Park.

“I’m fortunate that we get a couple days to get as much treatment as we can and continue to progress as much as we can,” Braun said after the Brewers’ regular season ended in a 4-3 loss to the Rockies in 13 innings, “and certainly the goal is to play Tuesday.”

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And Cain?

“He swung in the cages, which was a really good sign,” Counsell said. “We ran on the treadmill lightly but weren’t going to push anything today. It was a good sign in that he took very aggressive swings in the cage. That’s probably as far as we pushed it today.”

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Cain made a pair of sensational catches, including a home run robbery, before leaving Saturday’s heartbreaking 10-inning loss to the Rockies with a sprained left ankle. With Christian Yelich out for the season and Braun also sidelined through at least Sunday by a calf injury, the Brewers’ starting outfield for their regular-season finale was composed of left fielder Cory Spangenberg, center fielder Trent Grisham and right fielder Ben Gamel.

A hard slide on a disputed out at home plate in the top of the ninth inning led to Cain’s exit on Saturday. His left ankle had already been heavily taped since he injured it during the Brewers’ final homestand.

“It was like a gut punch,” Gamel said of Cain's injury. “The way that guy plays the game, the intensity he brings every day no matter what, no matter how his body feels, I’ve got nothing but respect for Lo-Lo. The only option we have [is to pick him up]. It’s fun. This is what baseball is about, why we play the game. It’s for times like this.”

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Said Counsell: “It’s what we’ve been doing. This is how we’ve been winning games. We won a big game on Thursday in Cincinnati without those guys, and this is a similar situation. There’s been other games like this throughout this stretch. Guys have stepped up. We’ve had different heroes this month.”

Game 162 déjà vu

Sunday marked the second straight year that the Brewers reached their final regularly scheduled game with a chance to win the NL Central. The year before that, they were not eliminated from postseason contention until Game 161 in St. Louis.

“There’s been one game in three years that didn’t have meaning,” Counsell said. “That’s pretty special, I think, and I’m pretty proud of that, for sure. So, we’ll take today as a big game. I do think we have to, in some ways, hedge here a little bit with some of our pitching decisions. So we’ll just read the game and go forward.

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“Look, it’s like everything else, we’re going to have choices to make during the game today like we do every night. We know there’s another game. You have to [understand that]. There is going to be another game. That’s the great thing -- it’s going to be a playoff game. But this is not.”

Division turnover

Counsell was suddenly the NL’s longest-tenured manager on Sunday when the Pirates dismissed Clint Hurdle. Counsell took the job in May 2015, while Hurdle had manned the ship in Pittsburgh since 2011.

Meanwhile, news of Joe Maddon’s departure from the Cubs came early enough Sunday for Counsell to comment during his daily pregame session with reporters.

“On the job, I learned more about this job from Joe Maddon than anybody, and I’ve had one conversation with Joe the first time we met in 2015,” Counsell said. “Because we play each other a lot, I follow him closely, and I learned a tremendous amount about what I think it takes to be good in this job, because I think he’s really, really good at what he does.”

Was Counsell talking about in-game maneuvering or everything else that goes with leading a team and being its chief spokesperson?

“I’m talking about everything,” Counsell said. “You know you’re going to engage against their team 20 times, and I think he does a wonderful job as a messenger for his team. Those are the parts I can get access to, and he’s taught me a lot.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.