Braun-led Brewers bash their way back into the playoff picture

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The Brewers' seven-game losing streak a week before the trade deadline seemed to be a well-timed death knell on their season. On July 26 they were both 10 games under .500 and 10 games out of the second wild card. The club traded ace Zack Greinke to the Angels and listened to offers for other players.

Less than two months later, however, Milwaukee has won 20 of its last 26, pulling two games above .500 and 2 1/2 games out of the playoff picture.

The Brewers have scored 266 runs since that July 26 nadir, which is the most in the majors, and no small amount of credit for that goes to the steady production of leftfielder Ryan Braun (more on him below) and to the renaissance of second baseman Rickie Weeks, who had a .190 average and .638 OPS until a 4-for-4 game on July 25 -- near the end of that awful losing streak -- seemed to wake him up. He's batted .301 since then, with a .928 OPS that trails only Dustin Pedroia among major league second basemen during that time span.

While most of the Brewers' recent schedule has featured teams in decline during the second half (Cubs, Marlins, Mets and Pirates), their last 10 days included a three-game sweep of the Braves and a 2-of-3 series victory over the Cardinals, whom they are chasing in the standings -- but not in SI.com's latest Power Rankings. The Brewers' surge came late enough that they are still playoff longshots, but they've climbed to No. 11 here, which beats the rest of the competition for that second NL wild card. A 10-game road trip to Pittsburgh, Washington and Cincinnati starting Tuesday may well determine their October fate.

NOTES: All stats are updated through Sunday, Sept. 16.

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