The Milwaukee Brewers (34-23) enter June in first place in the National League Central division, a spot they’ve held since April 5.
The hot start the club had in March/April wasn’t a fluke; pitching simply began to level out in the next month. May saw the Brewers go 13-15 as the bats, combined with relatively inconsistent pitching, began to fall towards the league median.
Starting pitchers had a 4.22 ERA in May and for the most part Ron Roenicke never knew what he would get out of them. It’s no surprise that RHP Kyle Lohse has emerged as the ace of the rotation and aside from the 1-4 record in May, RHP Wily Peralta showed that he is close behind him with a 2.87 ERA. For the most part, RHP’s Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada and Matt Garza were unreliable from a game-to-game basis. Fortunately for the Brewers, the starting rotation has avoided injuries and remains a solid group as the season wears on.
It’s hard to replicate what the bullpen did in March/April, and the month of May showed that. They compiled a 4.21 ERA and for the most part weren’t the reliable bunch they showed they could be in the early months. The usually reliable RHP Francisco Rodriguez blew his first two saves of the season and RHP Tyler Thornburg had a 6.00 ERA in 11 relief appearances. The brightest spot in the bullpen continues to be LHP Will Smith, who didn’t allow a single earned run for the entire month. LHP Zach Duke (1.93 ERA) and RHP Rob Wooten (0.71 ERA) also shined in May.
Offensively, the Brewers remained strong hitters, but hit a rough patch in mid-May. They scored just two runs over 25 innings in a series versus the Chicago Cubs, but the bats picked up again in the following series against the Miami Marlins.
June is a month the Brewers must use to add to the first place cushion. Taking a look ahead at the upcoming schedule, every team the Brewers face in June is either at, or below the .500 mark. The opponents (Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Cincinatti Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies and the Washington Nationals) combine for a 203-242 record.
Currently, the Brewers have a 4-game lead on the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. On paper, the Cardinals have a much more tough month of June. They have series’ against the LA Dodgers and American League East leading Toronto Blue Jays and have no NL Central games.
If the Brewers’ bats can remain hot, the pitching is capable of stepping up and dominating a majority of the upcoming series’. In my opinion, the slate of games in June will ultimately decide if the Brewers are legitimate contenders or not. While there is a cushion on the division, they must continue to win and boost their record so there is some leeway before the inevitable mid-season (post All-Star Game) slump occurs. If they can continue to avoid significant injuries, I see no reason why the Brewers can’t run away with the division.