The Milwaukee Brewers required an additional game to win the Central Division in 2018, then pushed the National League Championship Series to its limit before falling short of booking their first World Series appearance since 1982.
The Brewers look to take a few more steps this season, with the journey beginning against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday afternoon in the opener of a four-game series.
"I compared it to soup last year. We're going to make the soup again," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "Some of the ingredients are the same, but there are some different ingredients in that room, so it's not going to be the same. You don't get into these rooms by not moving forward.
"So we're going to move forward. My comment to you is that this team hasn't accomplished anything. It hasn't."
Christian Yelich, in fact, did accomplish a great deal in 2018, recording team-leading totals in homers (36), RBI (110) and batting average (.326) en route to claiming NL Most Valuable Player honors.
Yelich made himself at home in his first season with Milwaukee by going deep 22 times at Miller Park.
The 27-year-old Yelich recorded 10 of his 16 hits for extra bases and scored 16 runs in the season series against the Cardinals in 2018. However, he is just 2-for-12 with four strikeouts in his career versus St. Louis Opening Day starter Miles Mikolas.
While Milwaukee packed a punch by signing catcher Yasmani Grandal to a one-year, $18.25 million contract in January, St. Louis reacted to its third-place NL Central finish -- and missing the postseason for the third straight year -- by acquiring six-time All-Star Paul Goldschmidt.
"It's the only division in baseball where every team's trying to win," Yelich said. "So yeah, it's going to be a tough division. I think we understand that, and I bet you it's decided by a game or two just like it was last year. So we know every game counts."
Goldschmidt, who was acquired from Arizona in December, finalized his new five-year, $130 million extension on Saturday. The 31-year-old joins a Cardinals club that belted 205 homers last season, fourth-best in the NL.
"It's beneficial to get 1/8the extension 3/8 done before and just focus on playing the game and the season," said Goldschmidt, who is 6-for-22 with three extra-base hits (one homer, two doubles) and five strikeouts versus Milwaukee Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin.
Marcell Ozuna, who is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, is 6-for-12 in his career against the right-handed Chacin.
Chacin, who will be making his third career Opening Day start, posted a 15-8 mark with a 3.50 ERA last season. The 31-year-old Venezuelan went 2-2 with a 5.26 ERA in five starts against St. Louis in 2018 to fall to 2-7 with a 5.72 ERA in 11 career appearances versus the club.
Mikolas tied for the NL lead in wins after posting a superb 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA in 32 starts last season. The 30-year-old, who was a first-time All-Star last year, posted a 3-0 mark with a 4.01 ERA in four starts against Milwaukee in 2018 after failing to record a decision in his lone previous appearance versus the club.
Should Mikolas and St. Louis fare well on Thursday, it might bring about an appearance from offseason acquisition Andrew Miller. A two-time All-Star, Miller has been one of baseball's best relievers when healthy and looks to put his three trips to the disabled list in 2018 behind him.
--Field Level Media