PHILADELPHIA -- They have been in play for a number of starting pitchers, but as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline grows nearer, the Brewers' chief concern suddenly isn't their depth of pitching.The Brewers have scored 12 total runs -- two, two, three, two, two and one -- in the
PHILADELPHIA -- They have been in play for a number of starting pitchers, but as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline grows nearer, the Brewers' chief concern suddenly isn't their depth of pitching.
The Brewers have scored 12 total runs -- two, two, three, two, two and one -- in the six games of their longest losing streak this season, which continued Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Milwaukee still leads the National League Central by one game over the Cubs, two games over the Pirates and 3 1/2 games over the Cardinals, but the pack is closing in quickly.
"Nothing's changed. We're still in it," said Matt Garza, who pitched ably for five innings Friday before the game got away from the Brewers' bullpen. "Nobody's pressing. Nobody's trying to do extra. Everybody is just trying to get through this."
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Since they scored eight runs against Phillies rookie Nick Pivetta in the second inning of the first game out of the All-Star break, the Brewers have six hits in their last 50 at-bats (.120) with runners in scoring position. Brewers manager Craig Counsell called a rare team meeting Thursday in Pittsburgh, according to the Brewers' television broadcasters, to deliver a message of encouragement.
On Friday afternoon, players staged an impromptu dance party in the clubhouse before batting practice.
"What we have to understand is we've got 2 1/2 months to play baseball still," Counsell said. "The notion that we're 'hanging on' or we're in 'do or die' -- you guys can't write that story for 70 days. We've got a big chunk of the season left. It's time for us to just keep playing good baseball."
The return of Ryan Braun on Saturday should help. Braun played the Brewers' first five games out of the break, but missed the last three because of a right wrist injury. Like his strained left calf that confined Braun to the disabled list for much of May and June, the Brewers will have to monitor that wrist for the rest of the season.
"It's just the ebb and flow of the season," Braun said Friday afternoon of the Brewers' skid. "Obviously, we would love to run away with this thing, but I don't think anyone realistically thought that would happen."
He added, "Everyone in here is positive, everybody is optimistic. I think we're in a good place. We're just excited to still be in the position we are in as a team."
The Brewers, in their second full season of rebuilding, were not expected to be in this position this soon, which has made their Trade Deadline strategy one of the more compelling storylines in baseball.
Will GM David Stearns make a subtle diversion from his "acquire, develop, retain" mantra to acquire a controllable starting pitcher like Athletics ace Sonny Gray? Even inside the clubhouse, players are curious.
"I've been through it multiple times. I know what it was like when we added Carsten Sabathia, when we added Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum [before the season] in '11. Without a doubt, there's a psychological boost," Braun said. "It's hard to quantify those things, but 100 percent, I think it's something that's exciting for everybody when it does happen. At the same time, we have won with this group that we have."
Said Garza: "This thing comes in waves, man, so keep grinding, keep fighting, don't change anything you're doing, don't try to do anything extra. Just keep going and it's going to turn for us."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.