Considering where they stood four weeks ago, the Milwaukee Brewers making the playoffs would be a historic achievement.
So would a win Friday night.
The surging Brewers have a chance to match a 33-year-old franchise record for their longest home winning streak as they face the sliding New York Mets .
Milwaukee's only losses in its last 19 games at Miller Park came to Philadelphia on Aug. 18 and 19. After that pair of defeats, the Brewers were 12 games under .500 and 12 1/2 back of the NL's second wild-card spot.
"I felt like we had dug a hole pretty deep that we weren't going to be able to get out of," first baseman Travis Ishikawa said Wednesday.
Instead, Ishikawa's club has gone on an 18-5 tear to get in the thick of the playoff race. That run includes victories in all nine home games, one shy of the club record set July 8-29, 1979.
"It's pretty exciting in here right now, for all of us," Yovani Gallardo said after pitching Milwaukee to an 8-2 win over Atlanta on Wednesday. "We've just got to keep it up."
The latest victory moved the Brewers (72-71) above .500 for the first time since April 12. It also gave them a three-game sweep of the wild card-leading Braves at Miller Park, where they've averaged 6.4 runs during the home win streak.
Rickie Weeks is a big reason for the resurgence. A 2011 All-Star who hit .199 during the first half of this season, Weeks has batted .355 with five steals and 17 runs in his last 14 games. He has six homers and 11 RBIs over the past 11.
"He's been good for a long time now and this stretch has been really good and at a time when we really need him," manager Ron Roenicke said.
Corey Hart has keyed Milwaukee's success at home, batting .365 in 25 games there since the All-Star break with eight homers and 25 RBIs. He didn't play in the Atlanta series due to a foot injury but hopes to return Friday, and Roenicke is optimistic he'll at least play this weekend.
Carlos Gomez , the team leader with 32 steals, is day-to-day after leaving Wednesday with a bruised quad. Roenicke might not mind Gomez sitting out Friday considering he's struck out in all three at-bats against Jonathon Niese (10-9, 3.47 ERA), who starts for the Mets.
Niese has had five straight quality starts but has lost the last three as the New York offense totaled three runs. He's 1-0 in three starts against Milwaukee despite an 8.10 ERA.
Counterpart Mike Fiers (9-7, 3.05) also hasn't received much offensive help, getting no more than three runs of support in 13 of 18 starts. However, he's won three of four - all on the road. In his last seven home outings, the right-hander is 4-2 with a 1.77 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 45 2-3 innings.
This will be Fiers' first start against New York (65-78), and this might be a good time for it.
The Mets are coming off an 0-6 homestand, totaling nine runs and batting .210 while matching their worst overall losing streak of the season. Their only longer one from the past eight years was a seven-game skid in April 2011.
New York, tied atop the wild-card race as recently as July, has dropped 13 games under .500 for the first time since closing 2009 at 70-92.
"We set the bar pretty high in April and May," manager Terry Collins said. "Our club wasn't picked to be very good and we set the bar up there. ... Right now, we just cannot seem to recreate what happened in April."
|New York Mets|
|September 12, 2012||Ronny Cedeno||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight right hamstring|
|September 07, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Left knee bruise|
|August 18, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 15, 2012||Rob Johnson||60-Day DL||Torn ligament, left thumb|
|August 02, 2012||Tim Byrdak||60-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
|July 31, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Strained right thumb|
|September 12, 2012||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Left game - right quad contusion|
|September 09, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|September 09, 2012||Corey Hart||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Mike Fiers knows how damaging the loss might be for the surging Milwaukee Brewers .
"The playoffs are right around the corner, and we need to win as many games as possible," the Brewers' pitcher said. "Sure, there's a little bit of pressure there, but there is no excuse for me throwing the ball all over the place. I need to get back to pitching and start in the first inning."
Lucas Duda homered and doubled, Jonathon Niese pitched six strong innings and the New York Mets snapped a six-game losing streak, beating the surging Brewers 7-3 on Friday night.
The loss dropped Milwaukee back to .500 at 72-72 - four games behind St. Louis for the second National League wild-card spot.
Fiers (9-8) gave up six hits and four runs in five innings for Milwaukee, which had won 18 of 23 coming in.
"One game is not going to change it," Fiers said. "We had a really good stretch of wins here. We can still win the series. It's one game. If we can come back and win these next two games, it would be nice. It doesn't really matter where we're at. We need to win."
Niese (11-9), who had lost three straight starts, settled down after giving up two second-inning runs, allowing six hits, three walks and the two runs. He also had two hits and scored a run, helping the Mets to their biggest offensive output since a 9-5 extra-inning victory over Philadelphia on Aug. 28.
Daniel Murphy also homered for New York.
Fiers struggled from the start, and the Mets scored twice in both the first and second innings, equaling their offensive output in three losses in a sweep against Washington.
In the first, Murphy walked with one out, went to third on David Wright 's double and scored on Ike Davis ' groundout. Wright scored on Duda's ground-rule double.
The Mets made it 4-0 in the second when Niese singled with one out and, two batters later, Murphy hit a ball into the second deck in right field for his sixth home run of the season.
"Just command again," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said about Fiers. "He came out not throwing strikes. He tried to throw fastballs away and was pulling them across the plate a lot on the lefties. It was command, with the offspeed pitches also."
Milwaukee answered with two in the second, and it would have been more but for two runners getting thrown out at home. Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez led off with singles, and Travis Ishikawa doubled in Lucroy. Jean Segura grounded to Niese, who caught Gomez off third base, and Wright eventually tagged him out in a rundown. Fiers then singled in Ishikawa for his second RBI of the season. Norichika Aoki bounced to third, and Segura was tagged out at home. Rickie Weeks struck out to end the threat.
Shoddy defense cost Milwaukee in the sixth.
Duda homered to right center off reliever Manny Parra to lead off the inning - his second since being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo.
Then, with one out, Andres Torres reached on an error by shortstop Jean Segura , who threw high to first on the slow roller. Torres scored on Josh Thole 's double. Niese followed with an infield single that caromed off third baseman Aramis Ramirez 's chest - barely keeping alive his errorless streak of 42 games. Ruben Tejada followed with what should have been an easy double-play grounder to Ramirez, but Rickie Weeks ' relay throw to first bounced in the dirt and got away from Ishikawa, scoring Thole.
"We haven't played this type game in quite a while," Roenicke said. "I know we're going to have one of these once in a while, but we certainly need to bounce back tomorrow and play a lot better."
The Brewers threatened in the eighth with leadoff singles by Ryan Braun and Ramirez before a spectacular Mets double play, as Lucroy grounded sharply up the middle to a diving Tejada, who from his stomach flipped the ball to second, where Murphy pivoted and threw quickly to first.
Milwaukee added a run in the ninth on Nyjer Morgan 's RBI triple.
The Brewers had won nine straight at home, tying a Miller Park record, and were one shy of equaling the franchise mark. The streak included a sweep of the Braves earlier in the week that put them over .500 for the first time since they were 4-3 on April 12. Milwaukee was 12 games under .500 as recently as Aug. 19 before its recent streak made it a wild-card contender.
"Nobody expects us to be in this thing, and I think we've played that way, and that's why we've gotten back in it," Roenicke said. "If you start looking at every game like it's `you have to win,' I don't think the young guys will do well with that. So we haven't gone there."
The Mets - 19-38 since the All-Star Break entering play - had lost eight of nine and came in 13 games under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2009 season.
"They play great here, we know they play great here," Mets manager Terry Collins said about the Brewers. "They're in the hunt. They don't make many mistakes, so when they do, you've got to capitalize on it, and we did tonight."
Notes: Mets 3B David Wright extended his hitting streak to eight games with his first-inning double. ... Brewers 1B Corey Hart missed his fourth straight game with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. ... New York Mets RHP Jenrry Mejia starts on Saturday - exactly two years since his last major league start. Mejia started three games for New York in 2010 and did not pitch in the majors in 2011 after Tommy John surgery. He has one relief appearance since being recalled Sept. 4.