Brewers clinch postseason berth, but can they catch the Cardinals?

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor

The Milwaukee Brewers have used another September surge to secure a spot in the postseason.

With Wednesday’s 9-2 win against the Cincinnati Reds, the Brewers will at worst claim one of the National League’s two wild-card spots. They also have a realistic chance to catch the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central division. Milwaukee trails St. Louis by a game and a half.

The Brewers posted a 19-7 record last September to overcome a four-game deficit and win the NL Central. This season, they’ve gone 19-4 in September, which is even more impressive because Christian Yelich suffered a season-ending injury on Sept 11.

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Since then, the Brewers have gone 11-2.

Milwaukee’s clinching victory was highlighted by a grand slam from Ryan Braun.

The Milwaukee Brewers are headed back to the postseason. (AP)
The Milwaukee Brewers are headed back to the postseason. (AP)

How the Brewers got back to the postseason

It’s difficult to explain how the Brewers got here. Considered to be fading from the picture in the days leading up to Yelich’s injury, the Brewers started to rally and then were seemingly galvanized once Yelich was lost.

Yelich is still the main reason they were positioned to make this run. He posted MVP caliber numbers again, producing 44 home runs, 97 RBIs, 30 stolen bases and a league-leading .329/.429/.671 batting line in 130 games.

Milwaukee also wouldn’t be here had it not re-signed Mike Moustakas on a one-year, $10 million deal or signed Yasmani Grandal to a one-year, $18.25 million deal. Both players were victims of teams deciding not to splurge in free agency, which allowed the Brewers to swoop in. Moustakas is second on the team with 35 homers. Grandal, who’s arguably been their second-best all-around player, is third with 27.

The Brewers have not been able to repeat last season’s pitching success. They’ve gone from fifth in ERA last season, to 16th in MLB this season. However, the pitching staff has played a key role in their recent surge, posting a 2.77 ERA in September. Gio Gonzalez has led the way with a 1.80 ERA this month.

What the Brewers have to do to win World Series

It feels like the Brewers have been playing near-perfect baseball over the last month. It also feels like they’ll have to play another level higher if they hope to navigate through October.

Without Yelich, they won’t have a true game-changing hitter who can create scoring opportunities with his power, patience and speed. They don’t lack good hitters with Moustakas, Grandal, Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun around. They’ll just need a lot more from them going forward.

Lingering questions for Brewers

Who’s going to pitch and when?

We know Josh Hader will be the man late in games. But who starts for Milwaukee in a win-or-go-home wild-card game if it comes to that, let alone in a five- or seven-game series? The options include Gio Gonzalez, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Adrian Houser, Jordan Lyles, and Brandon Woodruff.

You’d be fine with any of them as your fourth starter or preferred long reliever in a postseason series. Maybe Gonzalez and Anderson have done well enough lately to feel confident going in that direction. However, trotting one out against Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, seems less than desirable.

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