PITTSBURGH -- Here's a funny theory proposed by closer John Axford for the Brewers' amazing surge into contention:
The Zack Greinke trade did it.
That seems like a strange hypothesis, considering Greinke was the Brewers' best starting pitcher on July 27, the day he was traded to the Angels. But Axford believes that it quietly propelled the rest of the team forward.
"Personally, I thought it was going to be more motivation for certain guys," Axford said. "There wasn't ever a thought on this team that this was a lost season. It was disappointing for a while and things weren't looking well, they were looking pretty bleak. But there's no guy on this team that's going to lie down and give up. It's shown recently."
The Brewers finished a 9-7 victory Thursday with 23 wins in their last 29 games and had climbed from 12 1/2 games out of a National League Wild Card to within 2 1/2 games. Wednesday's winning pitcher, Marco Estrada, said the atmosphere has changed noticeably.
"Everything has changed," Estrada said. "I feel like, out in the dugout, the vibe is a lot better. We're a lot more outspoken. We're pumping everybody up. That's the difference from then and now."