Entering Monday's game against the Cincinnati Reds (1 p.m. ET on ESPN), the Milwaukee Brewers find themselves 3 1/2 games behind the suddenly streaking Cubs in the National League Central.
But if you haven't taken a look at the NL Wild Card standings lately, suddenly the Rockies aren't the lock most thought they were earlier in the season. The Brewers find themselves just a half-game out of the second NL wild-card spot.
How they have done it
The Brewers are 13-6 in their past 19 games, the second-best record in baseball since Aug. 12. They’ve gone from 6 1/2 games back of the second wild-card spot to just a half-game back.
The Brewers' top strength is hitting home runs. Entering Monday, they have hit homers in 3.8 percent of their plate appearances, fifth-best in the major leagues. With 195 homers in 137 games, they are on pace to hit 230 home runs, which would be one shy of their franchise record, set in 2007.
The Brewers are doing it with the seventh-youngest offensive lineup in baseball this season. They have seven players with 10 HR in their age-27-or-younger season, tied with the Cubs for the most in the majors.
Light spending, big results
The Brewers' payroll is just over $63 million this season, the lowest in baseball. They're getting a lot of production for very little money from certain players, as noted in the graphic below.
Perhaps the biggest bargain for the Brewers is Jimmy Nelson, who has blossomed into the team's ace this season. Nelson is one of 11 qualified pitchers averaging better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings this season. The only National League pitchers striking out more batters per nine innings this season are Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom and Stephen Strasburg.
The hunt for October
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Rockies have been either the NL West leader or at least tied for the NL’s second wild-card position at the end of every day this season, excluding April 2, when they hadn’t played a game yet.
That could all change with a Brewers win and Rockies loss on Monday.
According to FiveThirtyEight's MLB Predictions, the Rockies and Brewers enter Monday with virtually identical odds of making the postseason. Both teams have a 39 percent chance to claim a National League playoff spot.