Fifteen. That’s the number of saves that Milwaukee Brewers closer John Axford had successfully converted IN A ROW before Thursday's game. Unfortunately that number doesn’t matter anymore. Axford allowed a two-out home run to Cincinnati Reds rookie-of-the-year candidate Todd Frazier in the bottom of the ninth inning to end his streak. Shortly thereafter he allowed another run to score, adding to his loss total for the season.
Now the number of relevance, from a Brewers fan's perspective, is 4. That is how many games we trail the 2011 wild-card winners (and current holder of the NL's second wild-card slot this year), the St. Louis Cardinals. With those pesky redbirds taking Thursday off, the Crew was either gaining or losing a half-game in the standings. A victory meant they would trail St. Louis by three games with six left to play.
So we sit four games back with six games to play. The Cards have three games this weekend against the Washington Nationals (who are fighting the Reds for the No. 1 playoff seed), while the Brewers play their final National League games ever against the Houston Astros, who move to the AL next year. On Monday the Cards begin a three-game set with the Reds in St. Louis. I hope the Reds are as motivated to block the Cardinals from the playoffs as we are to make them. The Brewers will host the San Diego Padres for the final three games of the regular season, also beginning on Monday.
Ultimately the Crew needs to sweep both series and hope that the Cards only manage one win in each of the their last two series. That would put us in a tie with St. Louis, anyway, which would create a one-game playoff with the winner taking the second wild-card slot and playing Atlanta for the right to advance to an NL divisional series. (Still following along?)
It’s a long shot and, if someone wanted to bet me a dollar (which is the only bet I ever make), I'd politely decline and blame it on not wanting to jinx anything while simultaneously beginning to daydream of eating a Bluth frozen banana with said dollar.
This is baseball though, and anything can happen …