The reeling Milwaukee Brewers need some help in the final week of the regular season if they’re going to win the NL wild card, but they first need to take care of their own business.
Fortunately for Milwaukee, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates hasn’t been a problem.
The Brewers look to win their 10th in a row against the NL Central’s last-place team on Tuesday when they open a three-game set with the Pirates at Miller Park.
Milwaukee (85-71) trailed the division-leading Chicago Cubs by 4 1/2 games to start September, but possessed a 5 1/2-game lead in the wild card race, looking poised to end the franchise’s 25-year postseason drought.
Instead, Milwaukee is an NL-worst 5-15 since Sept. 1. Chicago has run away with the division, but more importantly, the Brewers enter play Tuesday one game behind the New York Mets for the wild card.
“The unfortunate part is, if you don’t get in the playoffs, a hell of a season is thrown out the window,” interim manager Dale Sveum, 2-4 since taking over for the fired Ned Yost, told the team’s official Web site. “Everything was right at your grasp. From May 20 to Sept. 1, there wasn’t a better team in all of baseball - we were 28 games over .500 (in that stretch).”
However, it’s the poor finish that everyone will remember if Milwaukee again misses the playoffs.
“This is baseball. You never know what could happen,” said first baseman Prince Fielder, who’s batting .435 with 15 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak. He hit his fifth homer in that span Sunday in the Brewers’ 8-1 win at Cincinnati.
“The (teams) in front of us could do what we did - play good baseball and kaplowie. As long as we just play our game and see what happens, we’ll be all right. At least we’ll be able to sleep at night.”
This week, the Mets are at home against a Cubs team that has already clinched, but Milwaukee couldn’t have asked for a better opponent to start their final six-game stretch. The Brewers are 11-1 against the Pirates (65-91) this season, and have outscored them 63-22 while winning the last nine meetings.
Fielder—the one consistent bat in the Milwaukee lineup in the past two weeks—has struggled against Pittsburgh, hitting .240 with no homers in 12 games.
Dave Bush (9-10, 4.22 ERA) will start Tuesday for Milwaukee. The Pittsburgh native has owned the Pirates in his last three starts against them, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
Bush’s last win came against Pittsburgh on Aug. 29. Since then, though, he’s 0-1 with a 4.88 ERA in four starts. The right-hander didn’t get a decision Thursday in Chicago, giving up two runs over five innings of a game the Brewers lost 7-6 in 12 innings.
He’ll be opposed by Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (2-6, 4.37), who has lost six straight starts since winning his first two outings of the season. He gave up five runs—two earned—and a career-high 11 hits in five innings of Tuesday’s 6-2 defeat to Los Angeles.
Karstens allowed three runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 7-0 home loss to Milwaukee on Aug. 31, when CC Sabathia pitched a one-hitter to earn the victory.
The Pirates have dropped five of their last seven games overall, including a 6-2 defeat in their home finale Sunday against Houston.