The hottest team in major league baseball at the moment is the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew is rolling at the moment, having won nine in a row and sweeping three consecutive opponents. One of those opponents was a division rival and another was the world champion Boston Red Sox.
The divison rival was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who entered the series with the Brewers with a 6-3 record and just a game behind Milwaukee in the standings. Not anymore. The Brewers hit, pitched and dominated their way to a three game sweep of the Pirates that left the National League Wild Card winner from last season wondering what just hit them as they limped out-of-town now four games behind Milwaukee.
The early season success comes as no surprise to Brewer players. They knew they were good coming out of spring training and they plan on being in the thick of things all season long. “We’re not surprised by our start,” outfielder Logan Schafer said. “We know how good we are.”
No argument here. They have hit the ball this season, but the streaking Brewers are dominating because of good starting pitching and an excellent bullpen.
Francisco Rodriguez has stabilized a Brewer bullpen that had some question marks coming out of spring training. First and foremost among them was determining a closer after Jim Henderson’s spring training went awry. In stepped Rodriguez, who had been ticketed as the setup man, to take over until Henderson got himself back on track. That will not happen now. Rodriguez is the closer, doing everything one could ask for in a closer. He has four saves in four opportunities, has given up one hit in six innings pitched and has struck out eleven batters with just one walk on the season. After Sunday, the Brewers improved their bullpen ERA to 0.82, best in the MLB, while holding opponents to a .153 batting average.
The starting pitching has been all the Brewers could have hoped for as well thus far. Kyle Lohse permitted one run on four hits in 8.2 innings against the Pirates Sunday, running his record on the season to 2-1 while his fellow starter Yovani Gallardo is 2-1 with an ERA of 0.96. Brewers managers Ron Roenicke is getting exactly what he needs from his top of the rotation starters. This applies to the back of the rotation as well as Milwaukee starters Marco Estrada and Wily Peralta beat aces Cliff Lee and Francisco Liriano on consecutive nights last week.
Now comes the Brewers most important early season test. The defending National League Champion and division rival St. Louis Cardinals are coming to Milwaukee Monday for a three game set so this streaking Brewers bunch will be able to measure themselves against the favorite in the NL Central while they are still hot. Plus they will have good fortune of missing the Cards top two starters Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha as they both just posted victories against the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals have been the class of the division for the better part of a decade, but have had trouble hitting early in the 2014 season. This is a great chance for the Brewers to put a little more distance between the two teams early in the season before the Cardinals find their way.
The Milwaukee Brewers do not have that problem right now. Roenicke’s team has found their way already. Now comes the Cardinals and a chance to extend their winning streak while rolling over their biggest rival in the process.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the Milwaukee Brewers