A flat line flickers to life: ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Milwaukee Brewers
Relevant mid-September baseball at Miller Park.
No Brewers fan could've seen this coming after the team's post-All Star break swoon. After a three-game sweep in Philadelphia that saw the bullpen cough up leads in each 7-6 loss, the Brewers fate seemed sealed. The Phils applied the coup de grace by handing Cole Hamels a huge contract, a deal that priced free agent Zach Greinke out of the Brewers plans. Our stud hurler got shipped to California, and suddenly, it was Packers season in Wisconsin.
This is what the standings looked like July 27th, the day Milwaukee peddled Greinke (thanks for the screen cap, Tom Koch of Plover).
No wonder you were more worried about who was the number three left tackle on Green Bay's depth chart than you were about that night's starting Milwaukee pitcher.
And, when this incredible 18-5 jag began 23 games ago, the Brewers were even deeper in the hole, 12 and a half games behind the team that held the second wild-card spot, that being the now-faltering Pirates.
Milwaukee is doing it with an improbable line up: Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez are long gone because of injuries. Rookie Jean Segura is holding down Gonzalez's shot at short and Corey Hart switched from right to first. Nori Aoki took Hart's spot and is a hero on an almost daily basis, either at the dish or in the field. Rickie Weeks woke up. Jonathan Lucroy healed.
Then there's the pitching: Michael Fiers, Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Mark Rogers and others filled voids left in the rotation by injuries and trades. And, the bullpen that took so much of the blame for that midseason flame-out is no longer a collection of gas cans with arms. There was a time when flummoxed manager Ron Roenicke was asking reporters what they wanted him to do late in games,as each button he pushed seemed to be the wrong one when it came to selecting an able-bodied relief pitcher.
Don't hear anyone asking for Roenicke's head any more these days on sports talk radio, do ya?
Victory not only makes a skipper look smarter, it's also the best marketing tool. It's going to be a lot busier in the Brewers season ticket office this winter than one would've ever thought a month or so ago.
And, a lot more fun at Miller Park the next week or so, however long this run lasts. Or, harder to make plans.
A friend of mine, a priest at the Xaverian mission, called this week to ask if I could help out at a banquet they hold in October. Had he called July 27th or so, I would've told him to write it down in ink. Now, I told him to do it in pencil, as it's hard to commit to anything when one works at the Brewers flagship station when the team has a playoff pulse. It was a simple flat line a month and a half ago. Now, it flickered back to life.
Suddenly, a forgettable 2012 season is a whole lot more fun.