CHICAGO -- Bring on the Rockies. Or the Cubs again. The way the Brewers have been playing, they feel confident no matter the opponent in the National League Division Series.Especially with a well-rested relief corps.• Shop for NL Central champs merchandiseThe bullpen will be fresh for Game 1 of the
CHICAGO -- Bring on the Rockies. Or the Cubs again. The way the Brewers have been playing, they feel confident no matter the opponent in the National League Division Series.
Especially with a well-rested relief corps.
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The bullpen will be fresh for Game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday at Miller Park. The time of the first pitch is to be determined, and so is the opponent, since it hinges on the result of Tuesday's NL Wild Card Game presented by Hankook Tire between the Rockies and Cubs at Wrigley Field (7 p.m. CT on ESPN).
:: NLDS presented by Doosan: Begins Thursday on MLB Network/FS1::
The Brewers secured the NL's top seed and home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs with a fantastic finish, winning 28 of their final 38 games, 10 of 11 and eight in a row, including Monday afternoon's 3-1 win over the Cubs in the NL Central tiebreaker.
To get to that game, Milwaukee won 10 of its final 11 series, finishing with three-game sweeps at St. Louis and at home against Detroit.
Now the Brewers will try their turn at a best-of-five series. Manager Craig Counsell gave no indication who would start for Milwaukee in Game 1, though that's no surprise. The Brewers didn't announce Jhoulys Chacin for Game 163 until Monday morning.
"Over the last two weeks, we've played our best baseball," said Ryan Braun, whose own finishing kick included hitting .344 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in his final 10 games of the regular season. "I don't think it's who the best team is, it's about who the hottest team is. We've been hot down the stretch."
That included turning things around against the rival Cubs, who won eight of the first nine games between the teams before the Brewers won eight of the final 11, including a pair of series victories in September plus Monday's Game 163.
The Brewers outhit the Cubs in the finale, 12-3, and managed to beat nemesis Jose Quintana, whom they would surely meet again in an NLDS matchup considering his 1.62 ERA in 11 career starts against Milwaukee. The Brewers and Cubs met in six regular-season series, and Quintana managed to pitch in all of them.
"They won the division, bully for them," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We have to move on and get ready for [the Wild Card Game]. There's no lamenting, no crying, none of that."
If it's the Rockies, the Brewers would face an opponent they beat five times in seven regular-season matchups -- three of four at Coors Field in May, and two of three in Milwaukee in August.
The goal would be the same: Win the series.
"That was our motto in September: Win series, and then we'll see what happens in the end," said Lorenzo Cain. "We were able to accomplish that."
The schedule helped the Brewers down the stretch. They were off each Thursday in September, offering rest for a bullpen that had MLB's best ERA (1.98) after Sept. 1. Travel days in the postseason will have the same effect.
Milwaukee's 'pen was led by left-hander Josh Hader, who threw 35 pitches while recording the final six outs against Chicago on Monday and led MLB relievers with 140 strikeouts, and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, a fellow NL All-Star who was unscored upon in 63 of his 73 regular-season appearances.
Jeffress was in uniform Monday but not available to pitch for undisclosed reasons, although general manager David Stearns said he would be a full participant in the NLDS.
"Two days off resets everybody," Counsell said. "It lets us take a step back and get everything in order. We've been scrambling because we had to win every night. We have to figure out who we're playing, but it lets us reset."
And rest up for a big series against the Cubs or Rockies.
"Not just the bullpen, but the old guys," joked Braun. "I need a couple days for my legs. They've got me playing every day. They're overplaying me."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.