'A zero-game winning streak': The Brewers aren't getting caught up in numbers

CHICAGO -- Winners of nine consecutive games, the Milwaukee Brewers are officially the hottest team in baseball.

Not since midway through the 2021 season, when they won 11 straight, have they played this well for this long.

And, thanks to a 6-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Monday night, the Brewers' lead in the National League Central Division standings has stretched to a full five games and they are also a season-high 17 games over .500.

But while fans may be rejoicing, Milwaukee's players are taking a steady-as-she-goes approach with exactly 31 games remaining.

"It's just one day at a time, really," said leftfielder Christian Yelich, whose leadoff home run served as a springboard for another strong offensive showing.

"We haven't worried about how many in a row; it's just about that night and going into it thinking you're 0-0 and you've got a zero-game winning streak and you've just got to play well that night.

"Especially this time of year. They're all really important games and you try to do what you can each night to try and win one. Winning a major-league game is really hard. You've got to do a lot of really good things every night together as a team.

"Hopefully we'll keep doing that down the stretch."

Wade Miley took that early lead and ran with it, going six innings in earning his first victory since July 9.

Having been through his share of big games in his 13-year career, the left-hander didn't mince words when asked how big this opening win was against a resurgent Cubs team that has begun to distance itself a bit from the third-place Cincinnati Reds.

"With the magnitude of this series, it's really big," he said. "It gives us the momentum going into tomorrow. We've got (Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff) coming up, and we're excited about it.

"We like where we're at."

Here are three takeaways from the victory.

The offense has been on quite a roll

Christian Yelich of the Brewers scores a run on a single by William Contreras in the second inning Monday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Yelich also hit a home run in the first inning.
Christian Yelich of the Brewers scores a run on a single by William Contreras in the second inning Monday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Yelich also hit a home run in the first inning.

Three pitches in, Yelich took Jameson Taillon 416 feet out to left-center for his first homer since July 30.

Five batters later Mark Canha drilled a 436-foot, two-run homer to left-center that stretched Milwaukee's lead out to 4-0 before Miley had even thrown a pitch.

"When you start out a road series in a game that everybody's anticipating a good atmosphere from the crowd, just doing that to the home team in the first inning -- what more can you ask?" said manager Craig Counsell. "Yeli kicking it off, just good at-bats in the first inning, lots of hard contact.

"Mark finished it off with a big swing. Couldn't start a game out better."

It was the fifth big inning in the Brewers' last six games. They scored five in the sixth inning last Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, five in the third, five in the fifth and seven in the sixth against the San Diego Padres before lighting up the scoreboard for the four-spot on Monday.

Yelich then singled with two outs in the second, moved to second on a throwing error and scored on a William Contreras single in the second and Milwaukee tacked on an additional run in the seventh on doubles by Contreras and Willy Adames.

On the night, Milwaukee's 1-4 hitters went 8 for 18 with two doubles, a homer and three RBI.

Over the course of their winning streak the Brewers are averaging 7.1 runs per game (64 in all), tops in the NL over that span.

It's been quite the turnaround from the pop-shot crew that had to scratch and claw its way to two or three runs per game for much of the early portion of the season and then hope the pitching and defense could make the output stand up.

"I don't know," Yelich said when asked if this recent run is sustainable. "Everybody always likes to talk about our offense. We don't have to worry about if it's sustainable or not; we just have to worry about if we score enough runs that night and find a way to win.

"When guys are putting together really good at-bats and there's traffic on the bases, getting big hits with guys in scoring position, good things are going to happen. We're not one of those teams that's going to be an offensive juggernaut.

"But that doesn't mean that we can't put some runs up on the board, do enough to win. Play really good defense, pitch well."

Wade Miley keeps the Cubs grounded

Not counting the game in which he was removed due to injury in mid-May, Miley (7-3) struck out a season-low one batter with only four swings and misses in his six-inning, 82-pitch start.

But the 11 ground-ball outs he generated were highly effective on a night where it appeared as though the ball may be flying like crazy.

"Boring in the outfield's usually a good thing," Yelich said. "When Wade's hitting his spots like that you can kind of tell early in the game -- he starts working fast -- you like your chances."

The key, according to Counsell, was an effective changeup that Miley threw 25 times along with his trusty cutter he threw 43 times.

"I threw more (changeups)," Miley said. "Me and Walker (McKinven, the Brewers associate pitching, catching and strategy coach), not to get crazy technical, but the usage on my changeup has been down a lot and it's kind of rated as my worst pitch right now.

"It's been the pitch that's kind of gotten me along the last couple years and I just made it a point to throw it more tonight. Threw more cutters and knocked off the fastballs a little bit."

Miley allowed both of Chicago's runs on two-out solo homers by Ian Happ in the first and Patrick Wisdom in the fifth. Otherwise, it was a pair of singles against him and a walk and a single against the bullpen as the Cubs finished the game a rare 0 for 0 with runners in scoring position.

But it was that big four-run first that allowed Miley & Co. to mostly breathe easy the rest of the way.

"It puts a certain pressure on them early," said Miley, himself a former Cub. "When you come out in the first inning and drop a four-spot -- I wish I could have had a clean one right there, but it's 4-1 going into the second inning and we're hitting again.

"That puts you in a pretty good spot."

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The back end of the game had a little different look

With the score 6-2 in the seventh, Counsell went to Elvis Peguero immediately after lifting Miley and he issued the game's only walk in a scoreless frame.

It was Joel Payamps in the eighth, and he worked around a two-out single.

The ninth led to Counsell calling for...Hoby Milner?

Yes, it was Milner instead of closer Devin Williams, who some might have thought would have gotten the nod with the importance of the game. But Milner, coming off picking up the pieces after Abner Uribe's meltdown Sunday, responded with an uneventful 1-2-3 ninth to lock the game down.

"Obviously, every game affects the next game," Counsell said. "Because of who pitched yesterday we had Peguero up in the seventh, we ended up picking up a run but he was hot and ready to go with two outs so there was no reason to do anything there.

"We pitched Joel to get through that (eighth) inning. Then, the fact that Hoby pitches so well, that changes things moving forward for the next couple days. With the bullpen, what happens in the previous game matters and the next game matters.

"It all carries over. And those guys are doing a heck of a job."

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A zero-game winning streak Brewers aren't getting caught up in numbers