WASHINGTON -- Captivating as the Brewers' September surge has been, manager Ron Roenicke has remained cautious with his optimism as Milwaukee battles the National League East-leading Nationals this weekend.
But that doesn't mean that with the Brewers within 2 1/2 games of the Cardinals for the final NL Wild Card spot, that Milwaukee skipper hasn't looked back and wondered what could've been. The Brewers, a 40-45 team in the first half of the season, have overcome a rash of injuries, occasionally inconsistent run production, and a bullpen that once stood as one of MLB's worst to play 15-5 baseball in September.
"You go back, you always think about those things," Roenicke said. "I think you have to think about what happened in the past to figure out what you need to do in the future when those things do happen, because they're going to happen again. We're going to go through stretches where the bullpen's bad, we're going to go through stretches where we don't score any runs at all. The more times you go through these, the more you may have an answer for at least getting it a little bit better."
With 11 games left on the schedule entering play Sunday, the Brewers have no off-days remaining, magnifying the significance of any otherwise normal nicks and bruises sustained during September baseball. Corey Hart continues to work his way back from a left arch injury, while Ryan Braun is playing through a groin issue that has kept him sore for the past few days. Carlos Gomez also has both a left quad/thigh issue and a sore right foot.
"It's that time of the year," Roenicke said. "You want to get it done, and the guys are going out there every day. I think this happens a lot. September's a tough month with these guys, physically."
With that said, and with the Brewers also sporting a clubhouse with an average age of 28.1 years old -- 17th youngest in baseball -- Roenicke is placing an emphasis on not pressing too hard.
"I think the position that we're in now, we know we have to play great baseball. That doesn't mean we have to win every single game. And I don't think that the feeling of you have to win every game is a good atmosphere to put on a team when you go out to play every day. When you've got three games to go, OK."
Schafer gets his first big league start
WASHINGTON -- With the way Logan Schafer has been contributing as a pinch-hitter, his first Major League start had to be only a matter of time.
Indeed it was, as the 26-year-old outfielder made his first career start for the Brewers on Sunday. Schafer batted seventh and played center field while Carlos Gomez nursed a sore left quad/thigh and right foot.
Schafer went 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI before being lifted for Gomez, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Manager Ron Roenicke said before the game that Gomez would be available to pinch-hit if the Nationals brought in a left-handed reliever after starter Chien-Ming Wang. Wang pitched four innings, and the Nats inserted a left-hander in the sixth, leading to Gomez's insertion.
"I think we have enough personnel now that when they make a change, we can make a change," Roenicke said before the game. "If they want to bring out a lefty, it's a situation where Gomez is needed, then we go with Gomez and you still have Nyjer [Morgan] on the bench."
Roenicke praised Schafer's defense in addition to his pinch-hitting, which has been his primary role thus far, and cited it as another reason for his getting the start over Morgan.
"He can really play defense. Really play defense," Roenicke said. "So that helps. What he does offensively, I don't know. This time of year, you don't know what a guy's going to do. He's given us a couple of nice at-bats. He can really play defense."
Schafer, called up from Triple-A Nashville on Sept. 4, is hitting .417 with five RBIs over 12 at-bats in nine games. At Nashville, Schafer hit .278 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs, with 16 stolen bases in 124 games.
Schafer was also a September callup in 2011, when he went 1-for-3 over eight games.
"I feel good, I had a decent season down in Triple-A earlier and I got to come up. I've been able to contribute here and there during different times in September," Schafer said before Sunday's game. "Being able to get a start is obviously an exciting time for me. I'm ready to hopefully contribute some more."
Brewers Mini-Marathon a runaway success
WASHINGTON -- While the Brewers were fighting for their postseason lives in the nation's capital on Saturday, the organization kept busy at home with the inaugural Brewers Mini-Marathon at Miller Park.
A capacity 5,000 runners, representing 32 states, competed in the event, which fundraises for the MACC Fund (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc.) and was sponsored by Sendik's Food Markets.
"The MACC Fund was honored to be the charitable beneficiary of the inaugural Brewers Mini," said John Cary, executive director of the MACC Fund. "We were thrilled with the incredible response of the runners, who raised over $111,000 for pediatric cancer and blood disorder research."
The 13.1-mile mini-marathon began at Miller Park and steered its participants through several notable Milwaukee landmarks, including the Miller Valley, the Harley-Davidson Museum and the Mitchell Park Conservatory, among others.
The top three finishes for both women and men are below:
1. Dani Fischer of Madison, Wis. 1:18:49
2. Elizabeth Brothen of West Allis, Wis. 1:29:45
3. Carly Windt of Milwaukee, Wis. 1:29:57
1. Ryan Richardson of Franklin, Wis. 1:13:18
2. Rodee Schneider of Appleton, Wis. 1:14:44
3. Ryan Kruger of Iowa City, Iowa 1:15:22
Braun is continuing to play through "a couple of groin issues," said Roenicke. The ailments, however, aren't expected to keep him out of any of the Brewers' 11 remaining games.
"Braun's OK," Roenicke said. "I don't know how much running he's going to be doing, but he's OK."
Yovani Gallardo, who started on Sunday against the Nationals, came in tied with the Mets' R.A. Dickey for the Major League lead in quality starts with 25.
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.