Brew­ers’ play­off drive over­shad­ows 11-game win streak

Mil­wau­kee is near­ing team record for straight vic­to­ries, but it’s all about a sec­ond World Se­ries now.

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Nancy Ar­mour

MIL­WAU­KEE – Records are ir­rel­e­vant at this time of year.

The Brew­ers have won 11 con­sec­u­tive games, the sec­ond-long­est streak in team his­tory and two shy of the record.

Any other time, and this would be a BIG deal. There would be non-stop talk about it, ev­ery big play and close call be­com­ing more dra­matic with the telling. High­lights would be on an end­less loop.

Now, how­ever? The only folks who care are the ones angling for free ham­burg­ers.

The Brew­ers have big­ger things on their mind, like try­ing to earn the sec­ond World Se­ries ap­pear­ance in fran­chise his­tory.

“You’re wor­ried about win­ning se­ries at this point. That’s the car­rot for every­thing,” Brew­ers man­ager Craig Coun­sell said Thurs­day, a day be­fore Mil­wau­kee hosts the Dodgers at Miller Park in Game 1 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries.

“The win streaks are not as crit­i­cal. Maybe in the reg­u­lar sea­son, this would be val­ued prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more,” Coun­sell added. “At this point of the year, it’s win a se­ries and how­ever you do that.”

Still, string­ing to­gether dou­ble-digit wins is im­pres­sive, no mat­ter when it’s

done. The Brew­ers haven’t lost a game since Sept. 22, a stretch of al­most three weeks. Dur­ing that span, they caught the Cubs, won a 163rd game to clinch the NL Cen­tral and swept the Rock­ies in an NL Divi­sion Se­ries.

But the streak doesn’t seem quite as mon­u­men­tal as it is be­cause the Brew­ers haven’t been play­ing ev­ery day.

Af­ter beat­ing the Cubs in that tiebreaker game, they had two days off be­fore the NLDS started. They haven’t played since Sun­day, when they wrapped up the se­ries against Colorado.

Con­trast that to 1987, when the Brew­ers won their first 13 games of the sea­son. Mil­wau­kee had only two days off dur­ing that streak and, since it was at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, all eyes were on the Brew­ers.

“It’s not re­ally, I don’t think, some­thing com­pletely on every­body’s mind be­cause it’s been so bro­ken up,” Coun­sell said.

Which isn’t the worst thing in the world. Un­like the Dodgers, who are in the NLCS for the third year in a row and have made the play­offs six years run­ning, the Brew­ers are new to all of this. This is their first post­sea­son ap­pear­ance since 2011, and only the fifth time they’ve made the play­offs in the fran­chise’s 50-year his­tory.

It would be easy to get over­whelmed by all of it, and a frenzy over a record win­ning streak would only add to the hype.

But the Brew­ers don’t re­ally think like that. This is, af­ter all, a team that was five games be­hind the Cubs on Sept. 2, all but writ­ten off in the divi­sion and no gimme for the play­offs, ei­ther.

Now look at them.

The de­fend­ing World Se­ries cham­pion Astros might be the hottest team in base­ball, but the Brew­ers aren’t that far off. They have the soon-to-be-crowned NL MVP with Christian Yelich, two other play­ers with 30plus homers, ar­guably the best bullpen in the game and a man­ager who isn’t afraid to take chances.

“You can ac­com­plish a lot when you’re just fo­cus­ing on the present and one game at a time and not get­ting caught up in the big pic­ture,” Yelich said.

“The most mem­o­rable point of this sea­son is where we just said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to fo­cus on tonight and we can’t worry about how far back we are, who’s win­ning or who’s los­ing. We need to con­trol what we can con­trol.’

“We re­ally just set out as a group fo­cus­ing all our en­ergy in that day and that night … and (the wins) start to build and add up,” Yelich added. “Ob­vi­ously we’ve seen what’s hap­pened in the past and how it’s un­folded. We’re go­ing to keep that mind-set go­ing into this se­ries and we’ll see how it works out for us.”

Sure, the free ham­burg­ers lo­cal restau­rant Ge­orge Webb has promised for a 12th con­sec­u­tive win would be a nice treat for Mil­wau­kee. But the Brew­ers crave an even big­ger prize.

Christian Yelich

BENNY SIEU/USA TO­DAY

The Brew­ers’ Craig Coun­sell: “You’re wor­ried about win­ning se­ries ... that’s the car­rot for every­thing,”

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