Most rebuilding plans in baseball involve patience, long-term thinking and gradual progress. In Milwaukee, Doug Melvin would have none of that.
Milwaukee, with 22 wins in its past 25 games, enters its doubleheader Monday at Pittsburgh with an 8 1/2-game lead on second-place St. Louis in the National League Central. The fourth postseason berth is in sight for a franchise that owns one pennant and no World Series titles.
”We’re pitching really well, the defense has been solid and we’re really getting timely hitting,” Manager Ron Roenicke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday. “We’re getting contributions from everybody, which is really good. A lot of guys are doing really good things.”
This past offseason, Melvin made bold moves to add right-handers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to the rotation. Like the Brewers, Greinke had the short term in mind; he chose to accept a trade to Milwaukee instead of work out a $100 million deal with Washington. Marcum, meanwhile, came at a heavy cost — 21-year-old Canadian-born third baseman Brett Lawrie, who has dazzled in his first 55 at-bats with Toronto (.327 with a .600 slugging percentage).
Melvin will worry about losing Lawrie later. For now, he has the team that’s tied with Atlanta for the second-best record in the NL at 76-52.
Similar thinking enabled Melvin to acquire CC Sabathia on the way to the 2008 postseason, when the team won only one game in its division series against eventual champion Philadelphia. This time, Greinke (12-4, 3.92), righty Yovani Gallardo (13-8, 3.55) and Marcum (11-3, 3.40 ERA) could be a formidable 1-2-3 combination in the playoffs, and lefty Randy Wolf (10-8, 3.45) has pitched well of late.
Several key cogs remain from the 2008 team, including Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks and outfielders Ryan Braun and Corey Hart. Francisco Rodriguez, who was tattooed by his former New York Mets teammates Saturday but still managed a win, is another trade acquisition. Center fielder Nyjer Morgan’s “Tony Plush” alter ego is picking up fans in Wisconsin, and Jerry Hairston has been a helpful addition.
Everything seems to be going right for Roenicke’s team. Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw shut down Milwaukee on Thursday, but that’s the Brewers’ only loss in a 10-game stretch in which they’ve turned a triple play and won 1-0, 2-1 (twice), 3-0, 3-1 and 11-9.
Wait till next year? That’s not the idea in Milwaukee.