The Mets head out to Milwaukee for some beer, cheese, and baseball (hopefully not in that order) as they take on the Brewers at Miller Park. The Brew Crew have been on fire of late, catapulting themselves back into the wild card picture with a 72-71 record. Winners of their last three and 9 of 12 games this month, the Brewers find themselves 3.5 games behind the Cardinals for the second wild card, though they're also behind the Pirates and Dodgers. To get a better look at the Brewers, I sent Kyle Lobner of SB Nation's Brew Crew Ball a few questions and here are his answers. (I also answered some questions for their series preview).
Amazin' Avenue: The Brewers suddenly find themselves back in the wild card race. What has gone right for them during this hot stretch?
For more, click past the jump.
Brew Crew Ball: I think it's fair to give the Brewer offense most of the credit for their recent resurgence. They went from 12 games under .500 on August 15 to a game above entering play tonight and have scored 5.8 runs per game over that time, hitting 43 home runs in 28 games. It's hard to tie the offensive surge to one player: It's been up more or less across the board.
It's also worth noting that the Brewer bullpen, which nearly singlehandedly sunk this team before August 1, has been much better lately. John Axford lost his job as closer at one point this season but has now saved ten consecutive games to get back on track.
AA: Rookie Mike Fiers has been outstanding in the Brewers rotation, leading the charge with a 2.66 FIP over 109.1 innings. What can you tell us about Fiers and should this level of success be expected to continue?
BCB: Mike Fiers has been one of this season's biggest revelations for the Brewers, as he's gone from emergency spot starter to near-lock for the 2013 rotation in a matter of months. Fiers has somewhat underwhelming stuff and a sub-90 fastball but his control has been very good and his delivery is just deceptive enough to help him. He's also an excellent story, as he was a 24 year old college senior when the Brewers drafted him and had to overcome serious injuries suffered in a car crash in college.
It's tough to tell what the future holds for Fiers, as there's a chance teams will eventually figure him out. In the short term he's a great story, though, and I'd be very surprised if he's not a member of the Brewers' 2013 rotation.
AA: Rickie Weeks has had a dismal offensive season overall, though his splits look to be much better in the second half. What do you think contributed to his early season struggles and what has he done to get back on track?
BCB: It's been a tale of two seasons for Rickie Weeks, who was hitting .157/.291/.284 on June 8 but is hitting .275/.359/.481 since. One theory with Weeks is that he came back too soon from an ankle injury suffered late last season and it was still affecting him in 2012. At any rate, his power numbers are back up (he has six home runs in his last 11 games) and it looks like he's back to being one of the more valuable offensive assets in the Brewer lineup.
AA: Fresh off of an MVP season, Ryan Braun is in the midst of another monster year and is currently second in the majors in Fangraphs WAR. Come the end of the season, is Ryan Braun the 2012 NL MVP?
BCB: I think you can make a strong case for his consideration, but some of the factors in play here are unfortunately out of his control. Given the media hoopla surrounding the overturn of his suspension this spring, Braun would probably have to blow out the field to get a fair number of writers to list him first on their ballots. Braun's case has been helped significantly by the Brewers' climb back into contention and will be helped even more if it continues, but I'll still be surprised if he repeats as MVP.
AA: Which Brewers players have been playing well over the last few weeks and which players have been struggling?
BCB: The entire team is really pretty hot right now, as you have to be to go 13 games over .500 in a 27 game stretch. I should specifically mention Aramis Ramirez, though, as he's hitting .338/.400/.649 in his last 41 games.
This doesn't specifically fit your question but the Brewers' biggest question mark at this point might be first base, where Corey Hart missed the Braves series with a foot injury and remains day-to-day. The Brewers really don't have much in terms of solid candidates to put out there when he's out, and his bat is one of the most important in the Brewer lineup.
Thanks to Kyle for giving us a preview of the Brewers! Here are the pitching matchups for this series: