The Milwaukee Brewers have another real opportunity to make a mark on the playoffs this season.
The Brew Crew are currently two games ahead of their nearest challengers, the St Louis Cardinals. They have two important inter-division series coming up against the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Brewers have never won the World Series, winning an American League pennant in 1982, defeating the California Angels before losing to the Cardinals in their only World Championship appearance.
Since joining the National League, the Brewers have reached the playoffs on six occasions, winning the National League Central on three occasions and reaching October via the Wild Card positions, also three times. Milwaukee has reached the playoffs every year for the past four seasons.
This has been largely due to the progressive management of Craig Counsell, the former Brewer who had two spells with the franchise in the 2000's.
In 2015, he joined as team manager, his first Major League Baseball job, and has slowly built up a reputation that has seen his side win more than lose.
During June, Counsell became the Brewers manager that has won the most games in franchise history when he beat Phil Garner's record of 563 victories.
Despite winning two NL Central titles, Counsell has not seen his side progress further than the National League Championship series defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018. The 51-year-old has led his team in 17 postseason games and won just seven of them.
It would help if they didn't come up against a side that was in better form than them. Twice in the playoffs in the past four seasons, they have come up against the Dodgers and lost. In 2020, Los Angeles went on to win the World Series.
The Brewers defeated the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Sunday splitting the series 2-2. Pitcher Brandon Woodruff was excellent and dazzling for his second straight start off the injured list. Woodruff pitched six scoreless innings giving up six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.
In two starts since returning from the Injured List from a sprained ankle and a circulation issue in his right hand, Woodruff has held the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pirates to one earned run on eight hits with no walks and 18 strikeouts.
The two time All-Star spoke to the official Brewers website post-game and said: "It sucks going on (the IL), but you have to take it for what it is because you can't do anything about it once you are on it. Just use it as a mental reset, a physical reset, a total reset really."
This has been a problem for the Brewers and keeping their pitching staff on the field.
Adrian Houser is out for the next couple of weeks with a right flexor strain. Counsell is hopeful for Houser to be throwing again, he had been one of the few healthy options from the start of the season.
Relief pitcher Miguel Sanchez will soon be fit following right UCL discomfort, while Luis Perdomo has no set timescale to return.
Milwaukee in the first couple of months posted winning records. In June the roster was decimated by injury, underwent an eight-game losing streak, designated Lorenzo Cain for assignment and somehow still managed to lead the National League Central.
Following the long losing streak, the Brewers lost one series to the Mets, split four games against the Cardinals, won a series against the Blue Jays and swept matchups against the Cincinnati Reds and Rays.
In early June, Christian Yelich, who had been having a poor season overall, was pushed to the leadoff spot after Kolten Wong got injured.
Since then, Yelich has thrived. During June, the 30-year-old collected team bests in hits, walks, runs scored and stolen bases. His batting average for the month was .291, improving his season average to .255.
The Brewers and Cubs have shared the 10 games they have played this series, Milwaukee needs to improve on that record against a Cubs team that is in a state of flux, rebuilding for the future.
Milwaukee needs to take advantage of that and also of the Pirates over the next coming weeks, the Cardinals are not far away.
The Brewers are +1100 to win the World Series. The Dodgers and the New York Mets are the sides in the National League that are battling it out for the two top spots, but the Brewers always keep putting their hat in the ring.