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Sympathy for the Cheeseheads: Phillies at Brewers, May 16-18, 2006

May 16: Brewers 3, Phillies 2 WP: Turnbow (1-1) LP: Franklin (1-3)
May 17: Brewers 8, Phillies 7 WP: Capellan (1-0) LP: Rhodes (0-1)
May 18: Brewers 5, Phillies 4 WP: Lehr (2-1) LP: Madson (4-2) S: Turnbow (13)

For more on the Brewers, please visit our SBN sister site at Brew Crew Ball

For most of the 1990s and into this decade, the Milwaukee Brewers represented to me everything wrong with big-league baseball. They were owned by the family of Interim-Commissioner-for-Life Bud Selig, whose combination of dishonesty and ineptitude nearly killed the game I love in the strike of 1994-95; they played in a decrepit stadium before an indifferent fanbase in a tiny community that probably had no business possessing a major league team anyway; the club itself was populated with has-beens, never-weres and who-dats. Seriously, how many 1990s-era Brewers can you name? Jeromy Burnitz, Pat Listach... um...

But a few years ago, that all turned around. Milwaukee's Miller Park might not be the nicest of the new generation of ballparks, but it's a dramatic improvement on what came before. The Seligs finally sold the team to Mark Attanasio, a smart and energetic guy who happens to share a collegiate alma mater with yours truly. Under GM Doug Melvin and manager Ned Yost, the Brewers have started to amass a truly impressive collection of young talent, led by slugging first baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Ricky Weeks, shortstop J.J. Hardy, and pitcher Ben Sheets. Melvin's savvy moves have also brought the team outfielder Carlos Lee, emerging ace starter Chris Capuano, and closer (and one-time Phillie farmhand) Derrick Turnbow. In 2005, Milwaukee finished the season at 81-81, the club's first non-losing season since 1992.

Thus far this season, they've picked up just where they left off: after taking two of three from the Mets over the weekend, the New Brew Crew is 19-19. While they might not be quite ready to challenge the Cardinals and Astros for supremacy in the NL Central, baseball cognoscenti are near-unimous in the belief that their time is coming.

After excelling--well, except for Cory Lidle, who happens to be Tuesday's starter--against very strong Mets and Reds lineups, the Phillies' starters will face another big challenge this week. Lee (15 HR, 1.029 OPS), Fielder (8 HR, .929) and shortstop Bill Hall (8 HR, .981) are the biggest bats in Milwaukee's lineup. But veterans Damian Miller (.990) and Corey Koskie (.893) are hitting as well.

On the pitching side of the ledger, Capuano has excelled with a 2.83 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, holding opponents to a .214 average. His 49 strikeouts (in 54 innings) are fourth in the NL. Both Capuano and Dave Bush, who will face Gavin Floyd on Tuesday, have thrown shutouts this season; Bush, acquired in the Lyle Overbay trade this past winter, is averaging 7.33 strikeouts per nine innings this year, dramatically up from his figure of 4.95 last season.  

Three years ago, the Brewers only emerged on the national sports radar after "Sausagegate"--the infamous incident when Pirates infielder Randall Simon was arrested for assault after taking a bat to one of the costumed contestants in the nightly "Sausage Race" held between innings. Now it's the Brewers who are swinging the potent bats, and their accomplishments on the field that are garnering headlines.