The Milwaukee Brewers left their penultimate game of the season with questions about the availability of two of their primary starting outfielders. A day before their Wild Card game against the Nationals, their status has become a little bit clearer.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ best chance at success in Tuesday’s winner-take-all Wild Card game comes with every player possible healthy. That includes outfielders Ryan Braun, who left Friday’s game with a strained left calf muscle, and Lorenzo Cain, who suffered a sprained ankle during Saturday’s game after a late-inning collision at home plate.
Both players were unavailable for Sunday’s season finale, which was notable considering at the start of the day the team still had a chance to tie for the division lead. After the game, manager Craig Counsell released some encouraging news, per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy.
By Wednesday afternoon, Braun’s availability for Tuesday’s game was confirmed. Meanwhile, Cain’s was still up in the air.
Braun’s huge September
A number of Brewer players came up big to fuel Milwaukee’s big September run and Braun was no exception. Among the players with at least 40 plate appearances in the month, Braun was top three in batting average (.271), slugging (.559), OPS (.912), and home runs (4).
He also tied for the team lead with five doubles and led the team outright with 18 RBIs. Of course eight of which came on the back of two mammoth grand slams, including one that kicked off the game which secured Milwaukee’s first back to back playoff appearances since 1981-82.
It’s worth noting that Braun is 0-for-14 in his career against Max Scherzer, who the Nationals have named as starter for Tuesday’s matchup. That said, Braun’s slash line of .291/.349/.514 against Washington for his career is solid and while it takes a dip when looking at just at Nationals Park (.283/.343/.452), it’s still respectable.
Cain also hot at the right time
Once considered one of the weaker links of the Milwaukee Brewers offense this year, a fact that ended up with Cain losing his spot atop the team’s lineup, the center fielder has looked much better as the season has progressed.
After reaching a monthly low point with a .233 batting average and .582 OPS for the month of June, Cain has been much improved since and was another one of the team’s hottest hitters in September with a slash line of .320/.362/.493. That batting average led qualifying hitters on the team for the month of September while his on base percentage was second only to Yasmani Grandal.
But of course one of the most important reasons the Milwaukee Brewers need Cain on the field is his incredible defensive presence. Cain is fourth in the league and second among outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved with 20 (behind Washington outfielder Victor Robles‘ 22, coincidentally). He also has a number of dazzling home run robberies including an all-time great from Saturday night.
Statistics aside, the Milwaukee Brewers benefit from having Cain and Braun in the lineup because of the veteran presence they provide. The two have been around long enough to not let the big moments get to them, and sometimes even thrive under the spotlight.
In any playoff game, it helps to have as much offensive, not to mention defensive, firepower in the lineup as possible. When one outfielder has two grand slams in the last 15 days and the other is on his way to a (hopeful) Gold Glove, that’s exactly who the team needs on the field to help lead them to the next round.