MILWAUKEE (AP) — Go ahead and marvel about the Brewers' aggressive lineup and power threats. Worry about Carlos Gomez's speed-power potential or Jonathan Lucroy's ability to seemingly hit a double at will.
All key parts of Milwaukee's success so far this season — though manager Ron Roenicke thinks there might be an even more important factor. The best team in the National League has received a huge boost from its starting rotation on the way to a 51-33 record and 6 1/2-game lead in the NL Central.
"We are in a division where all five teams have five starters that can beat you on any night," Roenicke said. "To be able to stay with those guys and play with everybody, you have to have the same pitching."
Francisco Rodriguez leads the majors with 27 saves. Entering Monday's games, Lucroy was tied for the major-league lead in doubles with 28, and was third in average at .334. Gomez is hitting .301 with 13 homers, 44 RBIs and 13 steals, and irritating opponents with his high-energy play.
He recognizes, too, that the team wouldn't be enjoying such success without the starting pitching.
"Everybody comes and throws seven innings," Gomez said before Sunday's 10-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies. "When you throw seven innings it helps wins game because the bullpen, (it) keeps them fresh and everything is in balance."
The Brewers were off Monday and return to action Tuesday in Toronto. Through 84 games, they had a team ERA of 3.62, which ranked 12th in the majors. Opponents were hitting .249.
The starting rotation had an ERA of 3.72, which is down from 5.05 from the same point in the 2013 campaign. But the rotation's success can be traced back to the second half of last season, when starters had a 3.37 ERA after July 4.
Milwaukee doesn't have a true ace like the Dodgers, for instance, with Clayton Kershaw. But the Brewers are deep as they've been in a while in the rotation with Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada.
The signing of Garza to a four year, $50 million contract has been important. Peralta has taken a step forward in his development this season, while Lohse remains the model of veteran consistency, tied with Peralta for the team-lead with nine victories.
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