The Brewers are 12-2 without Yelich. If the Braves were to go 12-2 without Freddie Freeman, it would be remarkable — but not this remarkable. The Braves would still have Ronald Acuna and Josh Donaldson. Going by WAR (wins above replacement), Milwaukee’s second-best position player would be the fifth-best position player among Braves. (The second-best Brewer is third baseman Mike Moustakas, king of the one-year contract.)
And yet: Minus Yelich, working with as unassuming a roster as any playoff team ever, the Brewers have guaranteed themselves an October. Still at issue is whether they can play their way into a division title, which would mean skipping the dreaded play-in game and sailing into a best-of-five against the Braves. Not to be crass, but the thought of the Brewers as a Round 1 opponent would make the Braves feel as they’ve hit the Powerball. On paper, the Cardinals aren’t as good as the Braves, and the Cardinals are way more talented than Milwaukee.
Yeah, strange things happen in the playoffs, and Milwaukee is on such a run that anything seems possible. But the Brewers themselves have fallen into a run of luck. Since Yelich was lost, they’ve played 15 games. Three were against an opponent above .500. It’s as if, having doomed the Brew Crew to a month without its best player, the baseball gods said, “We’ll make it up to you, schedule-wise.”
If you’re the Braves, you’re pulling for a first-place tie come Sunday. That would pair the Cardinals and Brewers in a one-game playoff Monday. The loser would face the Nationals in the wild-card game, with the winner meeting the Braves in the best-of-five NLDS with its best starter presumably shelved until Game 3. (Yeah, the same thing happened last year when the Dodgers and Rockies tied for first in the West, but the Dodgers were so deep it mattered not.)
The thought, such as it was, behind yesterday’s missive still holds: The Cardinals are better than you think. They’re ahead of Milwaukee entering the final weekend, but they’ll have work to do to avoid a game on Monday. Technically, the Braves will spend their weekend playing the Mets. Their focus, however, will be on the Citi Field scoreboard, as they watch and wonder if the Brewers can pull this off.