Brewers rip Tigers in No. 162. Next stop: Wrigley Field for tiebreaker vs. Cubs
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MILWAUKEE — The 2018 Brewers staggered into the All-Star break on a six-game losing streak and coming off a miserable 0-5 series in Pittsburgh. Outfielder Christian Yelich sat sheepishly at a podium at All-Star media day in Washington and offered no excuses.
‘‘That was a really bad way to end the first half,’’ he said. ‘‘That wasn’t fun at all.’’
Oh, the fun that awaited him. Goodness, the weeks of pure, unadulterated excellence that beckoned the likely National League MVP — sorry, Javy Baez — and his team, which is postseason-bound for the first time since 2011.
Yelich and the Brewers are coming for the Cubs, people. After both teams won Sunday —it was an 11-0 wipeout of the hapless Tigers at Miller Park — they’ll play a Game 163 on Monday at Wrigley Field. The winner will claim the NL Central crown. The loser will host the wild-card game Tuesday against the loser of an NL West tiebreaker between the Rockies and Dodgers.
‘‘We’re going in there with the mindset that it’s a must-win,’’ Yelich said.
It would be difficult to imagine a more confident team than this one. While the Cubs struggled to win four of seven in their regular-season-ending homestand, the Brewers ripped off a 7-0 mark. They’ve won 10 of their last 12 games — outscoring opponents 79-34 during that span — and are on a 27-10 tear since mid-August. At 95-67, they’re a season-high 28 games above .500.
‘‘We won seven in a row to put us in [the] game [Monday],’’ manager Craig Counsell said. ‘‘That’s pretty darn good. We earned this game.’’
Of course, there’s a very good chance the Cubs and Brewers will meet again as NL Division Series foes. The Brewers were 8-11 in the season series — thus, no home-field advantage in the tiebreaker — but won seven of the last 10 games between the teams.
You’d better believe they think they can pitch, hit and mojo their way through Chicago and beyond.
‘‘[The Cubs] have been the class of the Central for the last few years,’’ second baseman Travis Shaw said. ‘‘But other than that, they’re just the team we ran into.’’
Folks here are itching to get their mitts on the Cubs. More than 41,000 strong did the wave Sunday as the Brewers built their giant lead. They jumped around to ‘‘Jump Around.’’ (What else were they supposed to do?) It was as fun and corny as could be, not that there’s anything wrong with that. They behaved like fans who aren’t used to the whole playoff thing, which happens to be the very energy that sustains the sport at this time of year.
The Brewers have a 36-home-run man in Yelich, backed up by first baseman Jesus Aguilar (35) and Shaw (32). They have a state-of-the-art bullpen that’s completely fresh, with power arms Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel all having had Sunday off.
They have belief galore and aren’t even afraid to face left-hander Jose Quintana, who is 5-2 with a 1.89 ERA against them since joining the Cubs.
‘‘If I was them, that’s the guy I’d [pick],’’ left fielder Ryan Braun said with a wide smile and a shrug of his shoulders.
Will Counsell opt for a ‘‘bullpen game’’ in Chicago, as he ordered up last week in St. Louis? Will he give the ball to 15-victory starter Jhoulys Chacin on regular rest? Might he turn to Chase Anderson, who has struggled this season but has been very successful in his career against the Cubs?
Whatever he decides, his team will take the field intending to bring home a title.