By NOAH TRISTER AP Baseball Writer
The Milwaukee Brewers have taken advantage of an easier stretch in their schedule — and they now have the largest division lead in the major leagues.
Milwaukee had won 11 in a row prior to a loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Brewers have a seven-game advantage over second-place Cincinnati in the NL Central. Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta have been impressive in the rotation, and the offense has done its part lately, averaging 7.6 runs a game during the winning streak.
Of those 11 straight wins, eight came against the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Pirates, who are among the worst teams in the National League. The other three victories were against the Cubs, who have dropped nine in a row.
The wins all count the same, however, and in the NL Central, one extended run of success has been enough to give the Brewers a comfortable margin at the top.
While Woodruff and Burnes have led the way, Milwaukee has gotten contributions from plenty of unsung players. Avisaíl García and Luis Urías have both reached double-digit homers, and the Brewers have needed their offense since Christian Yelich hasn’t hit for much power and Lorenzo Cain has been limited by injuries.
Closer Josh Hader has been dominant as usual, converting all 20 of his save attempts with an 0.55 ERA.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have won nine in a row after sweeping a four-game set in Washington. The Dodgers have more competition in their division than Milwaukee does, and they still trail the first-place Giants by a half-game, but Los Angeles has the top run differential in the National League.
The Nationals were on a surge of their own until they met up with the Dodgers. That series was an inauspicious start to a tough stretch on Washington’s schedule. The Nationals head on the road to face San Diego and San Francisco, then they host the Padres in their first series after the All-Star break.
At 21-11, the Brewers are one of seven teams with a winning record against teams above .500. Who are the other six?
LINE OF THE WEEK
Germán Márquez couldn’t add to this season’s plentiful total of no-hitters, but he did put on quite a show Tuesday in Colorado’s 8-0 victory over Pittsburgh. Márquez threw a one-hit shutout on just 92 pitches. The game took only 2 hours, 18 minutes.
COMEBACK OF THE WEEK
Shohei Ohtani didn’t make it through the first inning against New York on Wednesday. The Yankees scored seven runs in that frame and still led 8-4 entering the ninth. Then it was Los Angeles’ turn to score seven runs, and the Angels won 11-8. New York’s win probability topped out at 98.9% in the bottom of the eighth, according to Baseball Savant.
It was a rough week for Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees, but New York stayed away from its closer in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Mets. Instead, Chad Green pitched the last three innings, and his final frame was an immaculate one — he struck out the side on nine pitches to wrap up a 4-2 win.
Houston (39-19), Boston (28-19), San Francisco (23-16), San Diego (28-24), Tampa Bay (30-26) and Seattle (28-26).