Brewers Survive Road Weariness

Milwaukee has survived four three-city road trips and sits only 4.5 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central Division heading into a much-needed home stand before the All-Star break.

Milwaukee just finished an otherwise good road trip with a stunning loss in Arizona, as the struggling Guillermo Mota, Brian Shouse and before then lights-out closer Salomon Torres blew a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the road-weary Brewers a 5-5 finish on their 11-day excursion.

That left the Brewers sitting at 46-39 overall and in third place behind Chicago and St. Louis in the National League's Central Division before embarking on a 10-game home stand leading to the All-Star break. Milwaukee entered the holiday weekend with the fourth-best mark in the league behind the rival Cubs, Cardinals and Philadelphia.

The Cubs, despite recent troubles, still held the best record in the NL at 51-35, 2.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and 4.5 in front of Milwaukee.

Chicago has enjoyed a wonderful season and has embraced their preseason favorite's role, weathering trips to the disabled list by Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano.

St. Louis (49-38) has been one of baseball's most pleasant surprises, staying at or near the top all year behind a patchwork starting pitching staff. The Cards also succeeded despite slugger Albert Pujols' stint on the DL.

Meanwhile, the Brewers have bounced back with one of the best records in baseball since May 20 and have kept their pitching staff together despite losing young standout Yovani Gallardo for the year except for three starts. They've also juggled the lineup during Mike Cameron's 25-game suspension to start the season and the continuing offensive struggles of several players.

So, just how do these teams stack up? The better question might be WHERE they stack up so far.

The Cubs are in first place largely due to a fantastic showing at Wrigley Field, posting the best home mark in the big leagues at 33-10, although four of those setbacks have come against the Brewers. Chicago slipped to 18-25 on the road with two losses in four days at San Francisco.

St. Louis sports the best road record in the Senior Circuit (24-19)—Philly is the only other NL team with a winning mark away from home--and second only to the American League's Angels.

Milwaukee is second to the Cubs with a 25-13 home record and sits 21-26 away from Miller Park despite a nine-game road losing streak during stops in Houston, Florida and Boston that skewed those numbers.

But what makes the Brewers' situation impressive is that they just finished their fourth three-city road trip. And it wasn't a typical journey, taking them from the East Coast in Atlanta to Minnesota and then the West Coast in Arizona.

At the same time, the Cubbies just finished the second leg of their first such jaunt of the season. But it doesn't really count because the first three contests of their current 10-game trip away from the Friendly Confines were on the South Side of Chicago against the White Sox.

The Cubs' only real three-city road swing of the season comes in September.

Meanwhile, St. Louis has had two such trips so far and gets two more, one each in August and September.

As for the Brewers, they face only one more three-city tour, that coming in September, although it will be a tough one that features four games in Philly, three at Wrigley and three in Cincinnati.

Sure, enduring lengthy road trips means that a team typically gets longer home stands, but my guess is that most players would prefer fewer long periods away from home. It's not so much the physical drain, but the mental aspects of so many days in strange hotels, etc.

So, it's a testament to manager Ned Yost and his players that they've survived the rigorous hand that baseball's schedule makers have dealt them so far, and that should give them a boost going down the stretch.

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