By Nancy Armour |
Records are irrelevant at this time of year.
The Milwaukee Brewers have won 11 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in team history and two shy of the record. Any other time, and this would be a BIG deal. There’d be non-stop talk about it, every big play and close call becoming more dramatic with the telling. Highlights would be on an endless loop.
Now, however? The only folks who care are the ones angling for free hamburgers.
The Brewers have bigger things on their mind, like trying to earn the second World Series appearance in franchise history.
“You’re worried about winning series at this point. That’s the carrot for everything,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Thursday, a day before Milwaukee hosts the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
“The win streaks are not as critical. Maybe in the regular season, this would be valued probably a little bit more,” Counsell added. “At this point of the year, it’s win a series and however you do that.”
Still, stringing together double-digit wins is impressive, no matter when it’s done. The Brewers haven’t lost a game since Sept. 22, a stretch of almost three weeks. During that span, they caught the Chicago Cubs, won a 163rd game to clinch the NL Central and swept the Colorado Rockies in an NL Divisional Series.
But the streak doesn’t seem quite as monumental as it is because the Brewers haven’t been playing every day. After beating the Cubs in that tiebreaker game, they had two days off before the NLDS started. They haven’t played since Sunday, when they wrapped up the series against Colorado.
Contrast that to 1987, when the Brewers won their first 13 games of the season. Milwaukee had only two days off during that streak and, since it was at the beginning of the season, all eyes were on the Brewers.
“It’s not really, I don’t think, something completely on everybody’s mind because it’s been so broken up,” Counsell said.
Which isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Unlike the Dodgers, who are in the NLCS for the third year in a row and have made the playoffs six years running, the Brewers are new to all of this. This is their first postseason appearance since 2011, and only the fifth time they’ve made the playoffs in the franchise’s 50-year history.
It would be easy to get overwhelmed by all of it, and a frenzy over a record winning streak would only add to the hype.
But the Brewers don’t really think like that. This is, after all, a team that was five games behind the Cubs on Sept. 2, all but written off in the division and no gimme for the playoffs, either.
Now look at them. The defending World Series champion Houston Astros might be the hottest team in baseball, but the Brewers aren’t that far off. They have the soon-to-be-crowned NL MVP with Christian Yelich, two other players with 30-plus homers, arguably the best bullpen in the game and a manager who isn’t afraid to take chances.
“You can accomplish a lot when you’re just focusing on the present and one game at a time and not getting caught up in the big picture,” Yelich said. “The most memorable point of this season is where we just said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to focus on tonight and we can’t worry about how far back we are, who’s winning or who’s losing. We need to control what we can control.’
“We really just set out as a group focusing all our energy in that day and that night … and (the wins) start to build and add up,” Yelich added. “Obviously we’ve seen what’s happened in the past and how it’s unfolded. We’re going to keep that mind-set going into this series and we’ll see how it works out for us.”
Sure, the free hamburgers local restaurant George Webb has promised for a 12th consecutive win would be a nice treat for Milwaukee. But the Brewers crave an even bigger prize.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.