2017 Milwaukee Brewers
2017 Milwaukee Brewers / Franchise: Milwaukee Brewers / BR Team Page
Managed by Craig Counsell
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2017 Milwaukee Brewers surprised just about everyone by finishing the month of May in first place in the NL Central. They had a record of 28-25 at the end of the day on May 31st, one and a half game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals. While the good record was in part the result of the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as the Cards to some extent, underperforming badly, the team had still played well. Great months of April by LF Ryan Braun and 1B Eric Thames, the biggest story of the season's first month after returning from a successful stint in the Korea Baseball Organization, had got the team off to a fast start, but Braun had missed most of May with an injury, and still the team kept winning.
On June 2nd, the Brewers set a team record by striking out 26 times in a 12-inning, 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The two teams also combined for 42 strikeouts, a National League record. While Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw grabbed the headlines with 14 strikeouts including the 2,000th of his career - 2B Jonathan Villar was the victim - Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson also pitched well, notching 11 Ks while not issuing a walk. It was his second straight game with 10 or more strikeouts and no walks, making him the first pitcher in team history to achieve this.
On June 21st, the Brewers were still in first place, having now spent over a month in the position (except for a couple of games in late May). They had been widely expected to fall back in the standings quickly, but now observers were starting to wonder if they were for real. They were led by Thames, 3B Travis Shaw and RF Domingo Santana on offense, with Nelson and Chase Anderson pitching well and Corey Knebel being outstanding in his role as closer. That was a nice core, but other parts of the team were weaker.
The Brewers ended the first half at 50-41, with a seemingly comfortable 5 1/2 games lead over their closest pursuers, the Cubs. However, things quickly fell back to earth when the second half began. After winning their first two games, they lost the final contest of a three-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies, then traveled to PNC Park where they were swept by the Pirates in a four-game series. With both the Cubs and the Bucs playing well, the lead had now shrunk to one game over Chicago, and only three over Pittsburgh, and most observers were predicting that the Brewers would soon become a non-factor in a race between those two teams. That did not happen however; the Brewers hung on and while the Cubs were still in first place by early September, they had been unable to build a large lead. On September 8-10, the Brewers underlined the fact that they were still very much alive by sweeping the Cubs in a three-game series at Wrigley Field, putting back within two games of the division lead. However, they also got some bad news that week-end, as one of their two best starting pitchers, Jimmy Nelson, was injured in winning the series opener and lost for the remainder of the year, leaving a big hole in the pitching staff. However, in the third game, Zach Davies, the other top starting pitcher on the team, won his major league-leading 17th game.
They had a chance to close to with 2 1/2 games of the Cubs when they led, 3-2, coming into the 9th inning of the first game of a four-game series against the Cubs at home on September 21st, but they allowed the tying run with two outs, then wasted a bases loaded, one-out opportunity in the bottom of the inning before Oliver Drake gave up a two-run homer to Kris Bryant in the 10th for a 5-3 loss. The following day, the Brewers lost another game to the Cubs in extra innings, this one by the score of 5-4 when closer Corey Knebel allowed a bases loaded walk to pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella in the 10th inning. That loss also allowed the Cardinals to vault past them and into second place. Game 3 of the series also went to extra innings, but this time, it was the Brewers who reversed a deficit, as Travis Shaw hit a two-run walk-off homer off Wade Davis in the 10th for a 4-3 win. That allowed the Brewers to move back to within one game of the wild card slot, but they lost again in the finale, 5-0, to a complete game shutout by José Quintana, to fall back to two games of the Colorado Rockies for the final playoff spot, the Cubs being now virtually uncatchable. The Brewers' hopes were finally quashed on the season's penultimate day on September 30th. They began the day with still a chance to force a one-game playoff with the Rockies, and things looked good as they took a 6-0 lead over the Cardinals after three innings, but they couldn't hold on, eventually losing, 7-6, to be eliminated. Still, it had been a better season than anyone could have expected. Since Nelson's season-ending injury, they had resorted to using only relief pitchers on the days he would have normally started, but the strategy caught up with them, as the bullpen had nothing left on what was the last of these games.
In spite of their good results, the Brewers' batters were particularly vulnerable to the strikeout, setting a new major league record with 1,571 for the season.
Awards and Honors
- Tom Haudricourt: "Unexpected early success won't tempt Brewers to skip steps in rebuilding process", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 22, 2017. 
- Jon Paul Morosi: "Brewers expected to eye Deadline additions: GM Stearns monitoring market with club in contention", mlb.com, July 7, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "First-place Brewers seem destined to fade - but will they?", USA Today Sports, June 21, 2017.