Just when you thought the Milwaukee Brewers were out of the playoff picture, the Crew restored a little hope last weekend and won four out of five games against the Miami Marlins and the Cincinnati Reds.
Off to a 19-8 start in April, this team surprised just about everyone by remaining atop the National League Central Division from April 5 to Sept. 1. On Aug. 25, when the Brewers pounded the San Diego Padres 10-1, it was almost impossible to imagine the collapse to come.
But on Aug. 26, Milwaukee began an epic skid during which the team lost nine in a row. Through Sunday, the Brewers had won only eight of their last 24 games, and the St. Louis Cardinals held a five-game lead in the division.
That's not how you make the playoffs, even with two wild card spots open.
The last time something like this happened, the Brewers lost 11 of 14, and sixth-year manager Ned Yost was canned with 12 games remaining in the 2008 season. Milwaukee still squeezed into the playoffs that year for the first time since 1982, as a wild card, but was quickly ousted by the Philadelphia Phillies in four games.
Does current Brew Crew skipper Ron Roenicke, now in his fourth season, deserve to keep his job? Considering his cautious management style and apparent inability to inspire players in times of strife, you could make an argument against it. When guys like outfielder Khris Davis and journeyman Mark Reynolds are hitting more home runs than Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Aramis Ramirez, something's not right.
But lack of production at the plate isn't the only problem. Pitcher Matt Garza is struggling after returning from an oblique strain, and Yovani Gallardo had a losing record as of Sunday. And who knows how long it will take Mike Fiers to mentally recover after one of his fastballs slammed into the face of Giancarlo Stanton last week, traumatically ending the season for the Marlins' MVP candidate.
Just a few weeks ago, I was one of those guys proclaiming, "I think the Brewers' might win it all." Now, I'll be happy with the second wild card slot and their third playoff berth since 2008. That will do a lot to prevent this team's legacy from becoming "the one that couldn't win when it mattered most."