Milwaukee’s surge towards the postseason continued Tuesday evening at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The Brewers beat the Pirates 11-4 behind a superb outing from spot starter Marco Estrada, who tossed seven innings allowing only two runs on no walks while striking out two. Milwaukee tied a season high with seventeen hits and scored seven runs in the second inning, their most in any inning this season, capped by Casey McGehee’s two-run shot, his 10th of the year. Prince Fielder cracked the century mark in RBI, driving in his 100th run with a double in the sixth inning. Nyjer Morgan had four hits, including two RBI, raising his batting average to .314. Corey Hart and Yuniesky Betancourt each had two hits and Jonthan Lucroy collected three base knocks and a RBI, putting his average at a solid .287. Every Brewer starter had a hit except for Estrada, who did have three sac-bunts. Ryan Braun was also a major contributor in the victory, going 2-for-3 with two doubles, two runs batted in, two walks, and two runs scored — he also stole his 27th and 28th bags. His batting average increased to .328 and his on-base percentage rose to .399.
With St. Louis getting pounded by the Dodgers, the Brewers increased their NL Central lead to TEN games, the largest in franchise history.
With a 1-0 victory over the dwindling Bucs and a St. Louis loss to Colorado, the Milwaukee Brewers pushed their NL Central lead to five games. The Brewers have won 15 of 17 ballgames and are 18 games above .500 (69-51). Yuniesky Betancourt’s second inning solo blast was all Milwaukee needed Saturday as Marco Estrada (3-7, 4.46) pitched five scoreless innings in his first start since May 4. Brew Crew closer John Axford locked up his 34th save in 36 chances, working around a lead-off triple to earn his 31st save in a row. In case you haven’t noticed, Brewer hitters who reach base safely have recently begun to incorporate a new celebration — an arms out bear hug gesture paired with a gnarly, monstrous scream. Nyjer Morgan calls it “Beast Mode,” yet the origins are a bit more innocent. The actual story behind the grand display of fierceness comes courtesy of Prince Fielder. “It’s from Monsters, Inc.,” states Prince; “That’s my kids’ favorite movie. The whole team does it now. It’s something that I saw my kids do, and I thought it was funny, so I thought I might as well do it, too.” The whole team seems to have caught on, and turning to the dugout and waving your arms in a “scary” manner has become second nature to Milwaukee’s heavy hitters.
20. Craig Counsell, SS/3B
The two-time World Series champion has bounced around the majors throughout his career. After a one year stint with Milwaukee in 2004, Counsell has been with the Brewers since 2007. The Whitefish Bay native is a solid contributor in spot starts in the infield and is a great asset for Ron Roenicke off the bench. He seems to always put together good at-bats and is sure-handed on defense.
19. Mark Kotsay, OF
Kotsay and Counsell could swap spots on this list, but I give the edge to the veteran lefty outfielder due to the number of at-bats he’s accumulated so far in 2011. Kotsay started many games for the Crew during Corey Hart’s absence early in the season. He’s got a strong arm and still shows some pop at the plate.
18. Kameron Loe, RP
The 6’8″ Loe certainly has an intimidating presence on the mound. He was a major contributor out the bullpen for the Brewers last season, posting a 2.78 ERA in 58.1 innings. His 4.18 ERA so far this year may seem a bit alarming, but his 1.18 WHIP is the same as it was in 2010. His opponent batting average is actually lower this season (.229) than it was last (.245).
17. Marco Estrada, RP
After a horrendous 2010 with the Brewers when he posted a whopping 9.53 ERA (12 earned runs in 11.1 innings), Estrada has turned it around in 2011. He’s a valuable piece of the roster, already having made 4 spot starts and 14 appearances all together in 2011. This season he’s 1-2 with a much improved 3.68 ERA to go along with a 1.12 WHIP (compared to a 1.76 WHIP last year).
16. LaTroy Hawkins, RP
The 38-year-old veteran has been stellar so far this year for Milwaukee, boasting a sparkling 0.64 ERA in 14 innings. He was injured to start the season but has looked unhittable since his return from the DL. He struggled with the Crew in 2010 (8.44 ERA in 16 innings), but looks to have put those woes behind him. He continues to be a reliable option in the late innings for the contending Brewers.