MILWAUKEE -- "Don't look at the standings until Memorial Day," they say. If any of the Brewers looked Monday morning, they no doubt liked what they saw.
Besides reaching that traditional milestone on the Major League calendar, the Brewers crossed the mathematical one-third point of the regular season with Sunday's 8-7 win over the Mets at Miller Park. Here's a statistical look at where they stood after playing 33.3 percent of the schedule:
• At 34-20, the Brewers matched the Astros for the third-best record in MLB, they have the best record in the National League. It's also the best record on the morning of Memorial Day in Brewers history, and marks the sixth time in 50 seasons as a franchise -- though the third time in the past five years -- that the team was in first place.
• Milwaukee ranked fifth in the NL with a 3.47 ERA, fueled by baseball's best bullpen. Brewers relievers were first in MLB with a 2.49 ERA and 10.24 strikeouts per nine innings entering Monday, and second to the D-backs with a 1.12 WHIP.
• Leading that relief corps was left-hander Josh Hader and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress. One really good measure of their value is RE24, a statistic that measures a player's impact on run expectancy in context -- giving Jeffress credit, for example, for his bases-loaded escapes. Jeffress' 17.38 RE24 is best among Major League relievers, and Hader was third at 13.42. Between them, Hader and Jeffress posted a 0.76 ERA and a .101 batting average against (19-for-189) in 59 1/3 innings through the season's first third.
• The starting rotation was below average. Brewers starters were eighth in the NL with a 1.30 WHIP, 10th with a 4.19 ERA and 14th with 7.16 K/9.
• Offensively, the Brewers were right in the middle of the NL -- eighth of 15 -- with 4.3 runs per game. But that figure has trended upward since May 10, when the team began a long road trip at hitter-friendly Coors Field and started hitting. In their first 17 games since that date, including Saturday's 17-run outburst against the Mets, the Brewers led the Majors with 5.65 runs per game and led the NL with 1.53 home runs per game.
• The Brewers still strike out. After setting all-time Major League records for whiffs in each of the last two seasons, the Brewers had the worst strikeout rate in MLB through their first 54 games, at 25.6 percent.
So there was good and bad. And there's still a lot of baseball to play.
"I think the experience that we had down the stretch last year will help with the guys that return, and then obviously you add [Christian] Yelich and [Lorenzo] Cain and it's a huge addition for the offense," said Travis Shaw. "The bullpen's been lights out. You have a bullpen like that, you're pretty much in every single game. There's a lot of differences from last year that are positive this year."
• Injured pitchers Jimmy Nelson (right shoulder surgery) and Wade Miley (right obique) returned from layoffs to play catch in the outfield at Miller Park on Monday morning. For Nelson, it represented a restart after he took 10 days off from throwing following a checkup with Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. Nelson received assurances during that visit that his shoulder is healing as expected.
• First baseman Eric Thames, who was a month removed from left thumb surgery as of Monday, is scheduled to see the surgeon again Tuesday in Phoenix.
"He's played catch and has been working out in the field, but he's not hitting yet," Counsell said. "I think that's the step we're looking to take after [Tuesday]. We'll see if we get the green light for that, but we anticipate we will."