Worgull: Playoff Pushovers

Although the Crew went 20-7 in August, Milwaukee has struggled to put together wins against the National League elite. After a three-game sweep against the first-place Mets, the Brewers need to circle the wagons before their first playoff appearance in 26 years becomes an embarrassment.

MILWAUKEE - All thoughts that Brewers fans have of NL pennants and World Series banners need to be put on the back burner immediately. Take off your face paint, cool down the grill and take a good hard look at this year's edition of the Milwaukee Brewers.

The good news first is that the Brewers, after 26 years of humility, should make the playoffs as the wild-card representative. The bad news is that Milwaukee will be out of the postseason so quick that Ben Sheets won't even have time to make it to the disabled list.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Brewers have a major hurdle to climb if they expect to make noise in October.

The numbers don't lie, which is why the panic button should be put on standby should the trend continue.

Make no mistake about it; the Brewers have put themselves in prime position to be in a pennant race during the last month of the season for the second consecutive year and they did it because of a stellar August, which was the big undoing last year.

The Brewers went 20-7 in August, tied for second among the winningest months in franchise history, by winning seven out of the nine series they played, including sweeping two three-game series (Pittsburgh twice) and one-four game series (Washington). The only two series the Brewers didn't win were at St. Louis (1-1) and at Los Angeles (1-2). Coincidentally, those were the only two teams Milwaukee faced that were more than a game over .500.

Hence, the problem. The Brewers are doing what a playoff team is suppose to, pounding the lowly teams they are expected to beat. Where the Crew is falling short is against the contenders, teams that Milwaukee will most likely be seeing down the road.

The big thud came in being swept in a potential playoff preview by the Mets, a team with a struggling bullpen that was trying to finish a daunting road trip.

The optimist can point out a few things from this week.

1. The Brewers are fortunate that the Cubs, Cardinals and Phillies have struggled these past three days against lesser opponents and the Brewers are only 4 ½ out of first and are 4 ½ up in the wild card.

2. The Cubs are having pitching issues that are causing the ghost of the Billy Goat and Bartman to stir in preparation for the NLDS.

3. The Brewers lost games one and two by a combined three runs before being thumped today in a resounding fashion by a team also hoping to hold off the Phillies in the NL East race.

The pessimist has his views too, and frankly, they paint the better picture.

1. Since the All-Star break, the Brewers are 0-7 against the NL's divisional leaders and 8-10 against teams above .500.

2. The Brewers made the mistakes this series that playoff teams don't make--poor 0-2 pitches by the $10 million mistake, clumsy errors that proved vital and managing only seven hits in 12 1/3 innings by a bullpen that has more holes in it than the Titanic.

3. The Brewers have 10 more games against playoff-caliber teams, seven on the road and three at home against the Cubs, which should technically be counted as a road series anyway.

Combine those issues with throwing Dave Bush out as your stopper Wednesday and it was a recipe for disaster. Yes, I know Bush went 4-0 with a 2.12 ERA in five starts in August, but I'll counter with how many of those starts came against contenders? The answer is one, in Los Angeles, and he got a no-decision.

The real Dave Bush, who at times struggles to find his groove in the first inning, made a comeback today, giving up a six spot, including a grand slam, that defeated the Brewers before the home team even took an at-bat.

"Yeah, we got swept," said manager Ned Yost. "We didn't want to get swept, but we did. We missed opportunities that we could have taken advantage of and won a game or two."

The personnel on this team are not idiots by any stretch of the imagination. They know the situation they are in and what's at stake. Whether they are pushing because of it or holding back in spite of it, the Brewers, who had the second-best home record in the National League on Monday, just got humbled by a team that appeared to have more issues than they had.

"I love how people go crazy over little hiccups in the road," Yost said. "It's life. It happens. I don't understand why people go crazy over the human element. We do it less than a lot of people. If you don't believe it, look at our record."

Right Ned, you guys are dominating the bottom of the League, which means you will probably go 6-1 over the rest of the home stand against the run-inept Padres and reeling Reds. Then everything will be hunky-dory as the Brewers head for Philadelphia, Chicago and Cincinnati to, once again, try to prove their mettle.

Let's hope for our sanity that the numbers reverse themselves. Otherwise, that Brewer playoff shirt will be going back to the store before you can cut the tag off it.


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