MILWAUKEE In 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers went into the All-Star break tied with the St. Louis Cardinals atop the National League Central. They went 49-43 in the first half a respectable mark but tore through the second half with a 47-23 record, on the way to a franchise-record 96 victories and their first division title in 29 years.
There may have been no bigger factor in that second-half surge then the Milwaukee bullpen.
There was some uncertainty, especially early on when Takashi Saito went to the disabled list and LaTroy Hawkins had yet to find a role. That moved ground ball specialist Kameron Loe into the setup spot, where he had mixed results.
After acquiring Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez the night of the All-Star Game, though, the relief corps jelled. Suddenly, the Brewers were shortening games and all the pieces fit perfectly. If a starter got into trouble early, manager Ron Roenicke could turn to Loe to get a much-needed double play and end the threat.
He preferred ...