The Milwaukee Brewers 5 1/2 game lead is now a 1 1/2 game deficit. Can the Brew Crew catch up to the first place Cubs? There are more than a few reasons to be optimistic about the Brewers chances.
Remember when we were writing off the Cubs? That was a fun week. The Milwaukee Brewers have come back to earth while the Chicago Cubs have surged past .500. The good news is that there are a few reasons why the Brewers can catch up to the defending champs before the end of October.
The Chicago Cubs are facing a brutal second half schedule. They have a pair of pivotal series against the Nationals and D-Backs in August, and still have to go on a massive 10-game road trip in September. The Brewers still have to visit Los Angeles and Colorado, but their opponents aren’t quite as intense as who the Cubs are facing. The schedule alone indicates that the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t out of the race just yet.
If the Cubs have a injury to a key starter or an important reliever, they’re right back where they were before the trade deadline. If guys like Eddie Butler and Mike Montgomery have to make key starts down the stretch, the Cubs are vulnerable. Also, Justin Wilson isn’t quite the lockdown reliever he appears. He’s struggled to keep the ball in the park, and walks have been an issue. He’s still striking out over a batter per inning, but he’s not nearly as scary as what the Cubs had in the bullpen last year.
The Brewers have managed to patchwork together a pitching staff while Chase Anderson is on the mend. Anderson will return in August and provide the Brewers with the boost their rotation needs for the stretch run. Include the additions of Anthony Swarzak and Jeremy Jeffress, and the Milwaukee Brewers appear to have solidified their bullpen.
The Cubs offense still has Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, and they are terrifying. However, the Cubs lack true tablesetters at the top of their order. Willson Contreras has developed into a middle-of-the-order threat, but they still only have a handful of starters with an OPS over .800. Jason Heyward, Albert Almora, and Addison Russell have not shown the improvement that the Cubs were expecting.
The Milwaukee Brewers have their own offensive issues, but the solutions to their issues are simpler. They need to work out a platoon between Jonathan Villar and Eric Sogard, and also figure out their outfield rotation. The inevitable return of catcher Stephen Vogt will also aid their offense.
There’s still a very good chance that the Brewers return to the postseason, even if they aren’t in first place at this very moment. The Chicago Cubs may have the upper hand in the NL Central for now, but they’re a bad weekend away from losing first place. The Milwaukee Brewers have proven that they are in this race for the long haul, and won’t be slowly drifting into the pack. We’re in for a legit pennant race as the number of games left starts to dwindle.