Resilient Brewers looking to create chaos in NL wild card race

When the 2017 schedule came out, we’re guessing very few people bothered to circle any series featuring the Brewers in September. If anything, savvy fans may have seen this weekend’s series in Milwaukee as the potential time frame for the Cubs to clinch another division championship. Beyond that though, they just looked like another three games on the schedule as Chicago prepared for the postseason and Milwaukee played out the string.

It turns out the Brewers had different plans. Yes, the Cubs are still poised to clinched the NL Central, but the Brewers aren’t going away without a fight. That’s led to a series that so far feels like it’s being played in the middle of October, and as a result that’s getting us hyped for the drama the Brewers could have in store in the NL wild card race.

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It should be noted Milwaukee actually swept a three-game series in Chicago two weeks ago. That truly cemented this young Brewers team’s resilience as many expected them to fade after a sluggish start to the second half. It also helped set this weekend’s series up as one that could flip the NL Central standings. That’s not going to happen, but along the way we’ve been treated to three straight extra-inning games that have highlighted the fight Milwaukee has shown all season.

On Thursday, the Cubs hustled their way into a win, stealing the tying run in the ninth inning on an infield single, a ground out and another single that Milwaukee could only watch helplessly as it rolled through the infield. Kris Bryant put the finishing touches on that one, delivering a game-winning two-run homer that sent the traveling Cubs contingent into a frenzy.

Friday’s game was even more intense as the two sides traded zeroes over the final four frames in regulation. Once again, the Cubs would come out victorious. This time on a Tommy La Stella bases-loaded walk in the tenth inning.

When you factor in Wednesday’s walk-off loss in Pittsburgh, the Brewers had suffered three consecutive gut-wrenching defeats that put their season at a crossroads. The division deficit grew to 5.5 games, and they even fell one-half game behind St. Louis in the standings. That made Saturday a near must-win, and the Brewers came through with easily their most dramatic victory of the season.

With Milwaukee down a run in the ninth, Cubs closer Wade Davis entered looking to continue his perfect season. Davis had been 31-for-31 in save opportunities, but that all changed when Orlando Arcia greeted him with a home run.

Just like that, Davis’ streak was over, and the Brewers were back in it.

Travis Shaw of the Brewers reacts after his two-run game winning home run against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. (AP)

In the tenth, Chicago seemed poised to crush Milwaukee’s souls again after grabbing another one run lead. Then Travis Shaw delivered what could prove to be a season-saving hit, crushing a two-run walk-off homer against Davis. It was dramatic enough considering the standings and the atmosphere. It’s even more so knowing that Davis had allowed only three home runs total between 2014-2016.

The comeback sets up a series finale that will have an impossible task trying to follow the first three games. Of course, it too will be pretty close to a must-win for Milwaukee. At 4.5 games back, it’s highly unlikely they’ll catch the Cubs. But the second wild card is still well within reach as they sit just one game behind the Rockies entering play on Sunday.

If nothing else, it looks like the Brewers and Cardinals, who are 1.5 back going into Sunday, will be keeping the pressure on Colorado. With the potential for chaos seemingly fading in the American League wild card race, it’s looking like the NL race could more than pick up the slack.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!