Meaningful September Baseball. I’ll admit, I had forgotten just how different the game of baseball becomes when it counts in late September. This past weekend served as a pretty staunch reminder of just how gut wrenching the highs and lows of a playoff chase can be.
There’s not a whole lot to say this week. The Brewers have put themselves in a bad spot. They’re two back of the Rockies in the chase for the final Wild Card spot with six games to play for both teams. The Rockies will end their season with six straight home games- three against the Marlins and three against the Dodgers. The Brewers will play the Reds at home before heading to St. Louis for the final three game series of the regular season. In my opinion, the Brewers are going to have to win out to give themselves a chance at playing October baseball. The Rockies would have to go 4-2 over their last six in that scenario to tie the Brewers and force a one-game playoff to determine who heads to the one-game Wild Card series in Arizona. That would mean the Brewers would need to go 8-0 to earn the right to start resting their depleted pitching staff and preparing for a full playoff series against the Dodgers.
It’s a pretty bleak outlook, which is tremendously unfortunate considering how close three of the Brewer’s last four losses were to being wins. The Brewers lost three straight games in the 10th inning. While there were many moments that could have swung the game in their favor, there were four defining moments that potentially cost the Brewers their shot at the Postseason:
- Corey Knebel’s throwing error with two outs in the bottom of the 8th in Pittsburgh.
- Ethan Happ’s infield single in the top of the 9th, which was ruled safe after review. Photographic evidence later proved that Happ was out.
- Javier Baez’s game-tying two-out, two-strike dribbling single on a pitch two inches from the dirt in the top of the 9th, scoring Happ (see above)
- Eric Sogard caught stealing second with one out in the bottom of the 10th, where he was nudged off the base by a fraction of an inch after beating the throw
Flukes. Bad breaks. Bad calls, some would say. Inches. Milliseconds.
It all meant the difference on three straight days between wins and losses, and the Brewers lost all three of those games. If any one of those plays sways in the Brewer’s favor, there’s a very real chance they’re sitting here tied with the Rockies with one week left in the season.
But that’s not how meaningful September baseball works. When every single pitch matters, the game changes substantially. It truly is like watching a completely different sport- nearly unrecognizable from the games played in early May of the 162-game regular season. Everything up to that point gets thrown out and forgotten. It has the power to subject fans to cruel and unusual punishment in the form of three late-inning losses, but it also sets the stage for moments of pure magic, where stats like being 0-69 when trailing in the 9th inning get thrown out the door with one (or in this case, two) crack(s) of the bat. For as low as I was on Wednesday – Friday, it all changed at Miller Park yesterday afternoon, only to watch that magic fade to grey after today’s brutal 5-0 loss.
This has been an incredible and unlikely season for the Brewers that will be remembered for quite some time. When the World Series Champions, whoever they may be, are finally crowned, the Brewers are going to receive accolades at the national level for what they’ve been able to accomplish this year. These agonizing defeats are going to be valuable learning lessons for this young core of players that likely don a Brewers uniform for years to come. There’s a lot of good that will come out of this season, regardless of the outcome; playing meaningful September baseball is a privilege that has to be earned, and the Brewers did just that this year. But if you ask anyone in that clubhouse tonight if they’re hanging their hats on exceeding everyone’s expectations or gaining valuable experience, I think you’d be shown the door pretty quickly. For the next seven days, none of that matters even a little bit.
Right now, the goal remains what has always been- October baseball. Unfortunately for the Brewers, it is a goal that is slowly slipping away. They’re going to have to play perfect over the next seven days to give themselves a chance at the Postseason. Anything short of that, and they’ll be cleaning out their lockers next Sunday thinking about any one of those flukes, bad breaks, inches, or milliseconds that could’ve gone their way, but didn’t.