Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 9/3/12
MILWAUKEE The Milwaukee Brewers were out of it. Finished. Kaput. At least, that was the narrative a few weeks ago before the Brewers won 11 of 13 and pulled within 6.5 games of the wildcard. Now, the change in the clubhouse is tangible. And Brewers manager Ron Roenicke admitted that he's glanced at the standings more in the last few days than he had in the months before, when the Brewers were sellers at the deadline and looking purely at the future. "I know we're looking at them a lot more than we were a couple weeks ago," Roenicke said. "We're playing really good ball, and it gets you excited about getting on a roll." Excitement was definitely the word after the Brewers finished their sweep of the Pirates on Sunday a game that saw Milwaukee struggle mightily on the mound, only to respond with five home runs and 12 runs to make up for it. Of course, opponents have certainly played a part in some of that stellar recordas non-contenders like Philadelphia and Chicago comprised the majority of the Brewers streak of 11 wins in 13 games. But with the Pirates only just out of the NL Wildcard race five games ahead of the Brewers, as of Sunday night the past weekend's sweep could be a sign of things to come. Last year's playoff race does give some hope to a team like the Brewers, as the Cardinals came back from a similar deficit to make the playoffs and eventually win the World Series. But Roenicke is hesitant to make the comparison. "I think the difference is the Cardinals at that time were adding people to their team, figuring they had a good chance," Roenicke said on Sunday. "The way we're playing, and the way those young guys are pitching, there's some guys that are pretty excited about what we're doing. When they're excited in that other room, they start feeling some things, you don't ever know." If anyone has remained confident in the Brewers' chances all season, it's been NL MVP candidate Ryan Braun, who's refused to rule out Milwaukee, even when things were at their worst, until the team is "mathematically eliminated." Now, he's looking like he's on the brink of an 'I told you so.' "Oh, we're in it 100 percent," Braun said. PLAYING WITH HART: Is it possible that one of the Brewers' most significant contributors this season has been overlooked? Well, when you consider the potential MVP repeat season of Ryan Braun and the higher-profile performance of Aramis Ramirez as the cleanup replacement of Prince Fielder, then yes, it's quite possible that new first baseman Corey Hart has deceptively been one of Milwaukee's best players in 2012. Aside from his defense which has been spectacular in his first season in the infield Hart is hitting .276 with 26 home runs and 72 RBI, a pace comparable on all accounts to his 2010 All-Star campaign. But for Roenicke, it's Hart's hitting in the clutch that has been especially important to the Brewers' recent surge. "A lot of big hits," Roenicke said. "The batting average doesn't tell the whole story for us. He's got some big hits for us. Game-winners. And I look at that a lot. "It's nice when you have a guy who in the second inning drives in two runs and then the next game in the fifth inning he drives in a couple more, and at the end of the year he's got a nice RBI total. But when the game's on the line, what do these guys do? That's more important to me." And with a reputation for streakiness slowly being proven otherwise, Hart's 2012 could be important for the heart of the Brewers' lineup in future years. "Corey last year went into a streak where he was unbelievable for three weeks, four weeks, where he was winning games from first at-bat to the fourth," Roenicke said. "This year, it seems like he hasn't gotten into that super-hot, long stage, but he's been more consistent. And he's gotten big hits for us more spread out, consistently. "He has been more consistent." IN THE RIGHT: Roenicke knows that his lineup is loaded with right-handed bats. In fact, with the Brewers normal lineup, Roenicke often trots out just one left-hander every game. But he's not worried about the lack of diversity. That's because the Brewers have been almost just as successful against right-handed pitching as they have against left-handers, something that defies baseball logic to some degree. "I think we always talk about us being a heavy right-handed lineup," Roenicke said. "It doesn't concern me that much. The concern would be if we're beating up on left-handers and not hitting right-handers, I'd say OK, I understand. But since I've been here, we haven't been there. So last year, our winning record, I think, was better against right-handers than lefties. I don't see that it's a concern." Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.
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