Behind an impressive surge over the past three weeks, the Milwaukee Brewers have suddenly moved into serious playoff contention. Their front office showed just how serious they are this weekend by putting together a blockbuster trade to strengthen a postseason push.
On the verge of completing the first major trade of the season, the red-hot Brewers look to continue to move up the standings as they open a four-game series against the Colorado Rockies on Monday.
Milwaukee (49-39) is close to finalizing a deal to acquire last season’s AL Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia from Cleveland in exchange for a package of prospects, including the highly touted Matt LaPorta. Sabathia, who went 6-8 with a 3.83 ERA for the Indians, would join All-Star Ben Sheets to bolster a starting rotation looking to lead the Brewers to their first playoff berth since 1982.
Sabathia likely would make his first start with Milwaukee on Tuesday.
The Brewers did not look like they would be in the playoff picture as recently as last month, but have gone an NL-best 14-6 since June 15 to make up five games in the standings and jump percentage points ahead of St. Louis for the second-best record in the NL.
Milwaukee, owner of the wild-card spot, is 3 1/2 games back of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, and with the Cubs idle Monday, a win can pull the Brewers within three games of first place for the first time since May 13.
“We feel like we’re rolling on all cylinders,” said Bill Hall, who had three RBIs in Sunday’s 11-6 win over Pittsburgh. “We’re hitting the ball all over the place.”
Milwaukee tied a franchise record with nine doubles and 12 extra-base hits Sunday to move a season-high 10 games over .500.
J.J. Hardy had two, two-run homers on Sunday, and has been instrumental to the Brewers’ latest surge, batting .500 (27-for-54) with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in his last 13 games.
“He’s carried us, he’s been phenomenal,” said left fielder Ryan Braun, who was named to his first All-Star game on Sunday. “When a guy gets as hot as he is right now, it’s just fun to watch.”
The Brewers have won 15 of their last 18 at Miller Park, and Monday’s scheduled starter Seth McClung (5-3, 4.18) should be happy to return to Milwaukee, where he has posted a 2.41 ERA in winning his last three starts.
The right-hander allowed two runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 4-3 win at Arizona on Wednesday, but was not a factor in the decision, and has yielded seven runs in 10 innings in his last two starts - both on the road.
This will be McClung’s first career appearance against Colorado (37-52).
The Brewers dropped two of three at Coors Field June 6-8, but have won eight of their last nine over the Rockies at Miller Park.
Colorado lost to Florida 10-5 on Sunday to snap a five-game winning streak, but the Rockies now embark on a seven-game road trip where they are a major league-worst 12-31.
Colorado has dropped 16 of its last 20 away from Coors, and has lost all nine games Monday’s scheduled starter Ubaldo Jimenez (3-8, 4.50) has made on the road.
Jimenez, who has taken the loss in each of his last four road starts, is 0-6 with a 6.96 ERA away from Coors. The right-hander has been hit even harder lately, as he’s been tagged for 15 runs in 13 innings over his last three road starts. This will be his first career start at Miller Park.
“It’s a mental thing for me,” Jimenez told the team’s official Web site after beating San Diego at home on Wednesday. “Here, I just try to go after hitters, and that’s not the case when I’m on the road. I’m always trying to do too much, and I start falling behind in the count.”
Jimenez allowed one run and five hits in 6 1-3 innings in Wednesday’s 8-1 win over the Padres, as he improved to 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA at Coors.
In his only start against the Brewers on June 5, Jimenez allowed four runs and five hits in six innings of a 6-4 victory, but did not factor in the decision.
Matt Holliday, who was named to the NL All-Star team Sunday, is hitting .436 (17-for-39) with three home runs and 11 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak, and batting .389 (28-for-72) in 21 career games versus the Brewers.