COMMENTARY | The experts checked in early and often prior to the 2013 season and came to a fairly consistent decision: the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds would compete for the National League Central title. Some predicted that the Milwaukee Brewers would be able to compete with the two powerhouse teams and, at least early on, it appears they might have been right.
The Brewers came into St. Louis for a weekend series April 12 - 14. After losing the first two games, they took advantage of a shaky bullpen situation and stole a late-inning victory from the Cardinals in the Sunday matinee.
That Sunday victory seemed to wake up a Brewers offense that had been all but dormant. They would win their next eight straight games, sweeping the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants and taking the first two games from the San Diego Padres. In the process, the Brewers have outscored their opponents 52-27 during the nine-game win streak.
The win streak has placed the Brewers at the top of the division, tied with the Reds at 1/2 game behind the division leading Cardinals. Arriving in that location and staying in that location will depend heavily on some key players.
Kyle Lohse - One of the top free agents entering the 2012-2013 offseason, Lohse took a long time to find a team. The Brewers grabbed him near the end of spring training and he quickly showed the rest of the league what they missed out on. Though he only has one win to show for his first four starts, his W.H.I.P. is below one and an earned run average at 2.52 to show for his strong performances. The Brewers will need that production to stick at the top of the division.
Rickie Weeks - The former all-star second baseman will need to find his stroke at the plate if the Brewers are going to continue their hot play. He has shown moments of good play, but they have been few and far between in 2013. His below-the-Mendoza-line hitting and lack of power may leave the Brewers looking for a replacement if he cannot turn it around soon.
Jim Henderson - The young reliever has become a surprising answer to the closing conundrum that surrounds the Brewers. John Axford has been less than productive and the team has found a late-inning answer in Henderson. He has only surrendered one earned run and allowed just six hits and two walks while striking out 14 through his first 10 appearances. Henderson has been dominant and given the Brewers confidence with the game on the line.
The offense and pitching staff will need to continue to produce but it is very possible that the National League Central is a three-horse race in 2013.
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