As of Wednesday afternoon, the Milwaukee Brewers' "magic number" stands at 11. The figure, lowest in the major leagues, represents the number of Brewers wins or St. Louis Cardinals losses needed to clinch the division title.
Chatter about the magic number could be heard as early as late August, when it stood at 23. That was far too early, and the number was far too large, to start celebrating. The baseball gods responded by delivering three straight home losses at the hands of the loathsome Cardinals, denying fans the opportunity to party with their heroes at Miller Park, where they've put together Major League Baseball's best home record this year (50-19).
Things settled down and Milwaukee quickly regained its composure with three straight wins at lowly Houston and another in St. Louis. Mentions of the magic number have returned, and just in time for the arrival of Philadelphia, with its majors-leading 89 wins, to Miller Park for a four-game series.
Anyone hoping to get a read on Milwaukee's chances in the postseason is advised to pay close attention to these games, particularly Friday and Saturday, when the Phillies send 16-game winners Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to the mound. Getting to the World Series this year likely means having to beat the Phillies, as was the case in 2008 when the Brewers lost three of four to the subsequent world champs.
So while knocking a few games off that magic number this weekend would be fun, overtaking Philadelphia in the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs would really be something worth celebrating.