Favorable schedule could set up run
No big Deadline deals this year, but Crew is in contention
MILWAUKEE -- This time there's no CC Sabathia, no Ben Sheets. But there is another favorable August schedule, meaning the Brewers have at least a chance to put themselves in position for another postseason push.Milwaukee went 20-7 last August behind Sabathia and Sheets (and Jeff Suppan and Dave Bush, who combined to go 9-0 that month), then essentially held on in September to win the National League Wild Card. Do they have another run in them? "If we're going to get hot and give it a run, it's going to depend on the pitching," said left-hander Manny Parra, who was set to take the mound for Milwaukee on Monday night for the start of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium. "It will all come down to how we throw the ball," Parra said. "It's simple." Milwaukee's disappointing last week -- a series split with Washington and then a series loss at San Diego -- showed that no teams are lying down, but other than this week's series in Los Angeles, the Brewers' schedule is soft. Friday's game in Houston begins a streak of 22 consecutive games against teams that entered play on Monday below .500. The stretch includes four more games against the Nationals, who through the weekend had 10 fewer wins than any other team in the National League, and six against the Pirates, who have resided in last place in the NL Central for most of the season. At the same time, Brewers manager Ken Macha remained hopeful that Suppan (rib cage) will return from the disabled list when he's eligible on Aug. 12, and Bush (triceps) could be back from the DL the following week. Is general manager Doug Melvin still confident about his club? "We've had some inconsistencies with the ballclub that concern me," Melvin said. "But I do believe in them. I believe they are a better ballclub than what they have played. "We're no different than the White Sox, the Twins the Braves. They're all close to .500 like us. Those teams are trying to win their divisions, and we are, too." Melvin added, "You have to stay positive. We did it in August last year, but we did have Ben Sheets and CC. We have to play well as a team this time, but it's always a possibility." Sabathia and Sheets both departed via free agency after last season and Melvin didn't find a blockbuster this year in the mold of his July 7, 2008 deal for Sabathia, arguably the most impactful single trade in Brewers history. But Melvin did make a pair of pre-Trade Deadline acquisitions, adding second baseman Felipe Lopez two weeks ago to fill the need for a leadoff hitter, then picking up right-hander Claudio Vargas on Friday to plug a hole on an injury-plagued pitching staff.
The Road Ahead
|Home games remaining:||28|
|Road games remaining:||29|
|Games vs. teams over .500:||29|
|Key series:||at STL (Sep. 1-3)|
|vs. STL (Sep. 7-9)|
|at CHC (Sep. 14-17)|
|vs. CHC (Sep. 21-23)|
|at STL (Oct. 2-4)|
And Melvin points out that while the Trade Deadline has passed, the market is not dead. Teams can still deal in August, but players must first pass through waivers. The first batch of players was already exposed on Thursday, Melvin said.Melvin already has a list of players -- mostly pitchers -- he would be interested in. If one of them is waived and none of the teams with priority over the Brewers make a claim, Melvin would have 72 hours to work out a trade. "I'm still looking, whether we get hot or not," Melvin said. "You're hoping that there's someone out there who can still help us. A lot has to happen. You can get to the point that one player doesn't make the difference." If Melvin determines that the Brewers reach that point, he could turn around and become a seller. "You could always do that," Melvin said, "but that's not my focus right now. It's too early for that." A contender looking for defense, leadership and offensive pop could come calling about center fielder Mike Cameron, for example, who is making $10 million this season and is a free agent at year's end. Assuming they keep Cameron, the Brewers will face a tricky decision about whether to offer him arbitration, a necessary step if they want to secure Draft compensation for his departure. Inside the clubhouse, players weren't thinking about subtracting. "I don't see any reason we can't make a run," Lopez said. "We're not too far out of it. Everybody has to step up. We didn't make any big trades, so we have to go with what we've got."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.