Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Brewers keep closing ground on Phillies

Earthquakes, and hurricanes, and the Milwaukee Brewers, oh my.

Brewers keep closing ground on Phillies

Prince Fielder and the Brewers went on a 14-4 surge that puts them five games behind the Phillies. (Jim Prisching/AP)
Prince Fielder and the Brewers went on a 14-4 surge that puts them five games behind the Phillies. (Jim Prisching/AP)

Earthquakes, and hurricanes, and the Milwaukee Brewers, oh my.

Two of those three things have come and gone and now the Brew Crew is closing in on Philadelphia, too.

Milwaukee did not seem like much of a threat to the Phillies' bid to finish with the best record in the National League 2 1/2 weeks ago. After the Phillies finished a 9-1 West Coast trip with a sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, they were 10 games better than the Brewers.

Since then, the Phillies have been under a dark cloud -- actually a lot of dark clouds -- as they have endured a series of rain delays and postponements. The Phils have gone 7-6 since the West Coast trip and they have added two doubleheaders to their September schedule, leaving them with 33 games in 31 days and zero days off between now and the postseason.

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Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, the Brewers used a 14-4 surge to trim that 10-game deficit to five.

The Phillies, of course, are in no jeopardy of missing the playoffs and still have a six-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East. The Braves have gone 15-5 since the Phillies' 9-1 road trip and closed to within six games of first place.

Since the Phillies and Braves still play each other six times, Atlanta controls its own fate, but it seems unlikely that they would sweep all six games.

The Brewers, on the other hand, have a legitimate chance of catching the Phillies for the best record in the league for one simple reason: the schedule.

Milwaukee only has 27 games remaining as compared to 33 for the Phillies. The Brewers play 15 times at home, where they are a major-league best 50-16 this season. They also only have four series -- two against St. Louis and one each against the Phillies and Cincinnati -- and 13 games remaining against teams that currently have winning records.

The Phillies have 33 games left, including 20 on the road. Five of their final 10 series -- one each against the Reds, Brewers and Cardinals and two against the Braves -- and 18 of their final 33 games are against teams with winning records.

If finishing with the best record in the league is important to the Phillies -- and it should be -- then nothing is going to be easy about September.

You'll hear more about the Brewers as the Phillies prepare to play them next week at Miller Park. All you need to right now is that they'd be a dangerous playoff opponent without home-field advantage in the postseason and extremely dangerous with it.

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Inquirer Columnist
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