After being swept by the Giants and -- eek -- the Cubs, the Brewers hold the tiniest lead (0.5 games) over the Braves for the second wild card spot. Earlier this week, news broke that All-Star Carlos Gomez would miss at least a week with a sprained wrist, and Milwaukee begins a massive four-game set with St. Louis today. Is this all an elaborate scheme cooked up by the Green Bay Packers' marketing department, or should we have seen this slide coming?
The Packers don't need any marketing help, so perhaps Milwaukee's regression was inevitable.
After a so-so 2013 that was marred by Ryan Braun's suspension, the Brewers, perhaps wisely, maid only minor tinkers to the roster. Matt Garza arrived as a free agent (4 years, $50 million) to anchor a balanced pitching staff. Norichika Aoki was swapped for lefty reliever Will Smith, clearing room for up-and-comer Khris Davis in the outfield. Mark Reynolds was brought in to do Mark Reynolds things.
Mostly, the Brewers were banking on a Braun comeback, and the continued blossoming of Gomez and catcher Jonathan Lucroy. These things have mostly come to pass, with Gomez and Lucroy putting together All-Star -- and in Lucroy's case, a fringe MVP-ish -- seasons, though Braun's numbers have been un-Braun like.
So after a below average 2013 and a cross-your-fingers approach to 2014, perhaps the anomaly was the Brewers being in first place for this long anyway. Starting pitching has dipped, the bullpen is imploding (Will Smith has given up 21 runs in his last 18.1 innings, including a four-run disaster on Saturday), and the bats have quieted. Milwaukee was due for some regression, but rarely does regression come raring its head all at once, plaguing the entire roster.
Brewers management has done their best to quell the swoon, bringing in reliever Jonathan Broxton from division rival Cincinnati, that after adding the spunky Gerardo Parra before the trade deadline. With seven games left with St. Louis and three remaining tilts with the Pirates, the Brewers still have time to make things right. Maybe we should have seen this regression coming, but like a basketball team that's built a big lead (somebody give a Bucks fan a hug right now) and just hopes for the clock to run out, the Brewers are left clinging to the last wild card spot. We'll see if they can hold on.