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Battle ahead for Brewers in NL Central

July 17, 2014

As we pass the midway point of July, the Brewers have just two wins this month.

The good news? Sunday’s win ended a seven-game losing streak and kept Milwaukee atop the National League Central standings.

The bad news? Things are only going to get more difficult in the second half.

For much of this season, it’s been the Brewers and everybody else in the NL Central. They’ve been in first place since April 5 and held sole possession of that spot for more than 90 days, from April 9 through July 11.

Now, it’s the Brewers and the Cardinals and the Reds and the Pirates. It’s a four-team race, with Pittsburgh just 3.5 games back in fourth place.

Looking ahead, there’s good and bad news for the Crew.

Let’s start with the bad this time.

In going 53-43 over their first 96 games, the Brewers beat up on somewhat weaker competition. The combined winning percentage of their 16 first-half opponents was .486, or 41 games under .500 over the course of 1517 games.

For the next 66 games, Milwaukee faces 12 opponents with a combined .501 mark in the first half, having won two more than they lost in 1142 games.

That includes coming out of the break in Washington against the first-place Nationals. The Brewers also have six games each against the NL West-leading Dodgers and Giants, 10 with the Cardinals, nine more with the Reds and six against the Pirates.

That adds up to 40 games — 61 percent of their remaining schedule — against six of the eight teams in the NL playoff race.

If they’re going to win the division, the Brewers are going to have to earn it.

So what’s the good news?

Over the last six seasons dating back to their Wild Card berth in 2008, the Brewers have a .550 second-half winning percentage. They’ve won 43 more than they’ve lost. Milwaukee lost 15 more than it won over the same six first halves, for a .486 mark.

Even with this season included, the Brewers are just 317-322 in the first half over the last seven years. Just once — in ’09 — have they been worse in the second half.

And only twice — in ’08 and ’14 — have they scored more runs than their opponents before the All-Star break. But just as the winning percentages have risen, so too have their second-half run differentials.

The Brewers have outscored opponents by 174 runs in the second half, while giving up 121 more runs than they’ve plated in the first.

Between their tougher schedule and the Brewers being a second-half team in recent years, something’s got to give.

Either way, it should make for a thrilling playoff race down the stretch.

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