Brewers became quite a story in the first half

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The day after baseball’s All-Star Game is a black hole on the calendar, the slowest sports news day of the year.

Baseball is the only professional team sport playing in mid-July. When the All-Star Game ends, there comes a day off for every All-Star, non-All-Star, coach, manager and fan. Unless it’s a World Cup year, there’s very little shaking in pro sports on the day after the All-Star Game.

The mid-July sports lull has been a thing for a long time, as illustrated with a quick spin through the old newspaper archives. There, highlighting one sports section, was a huge photo of former heavyweight boxing champ Max Schmeling — who was opening up a bottling company in Germany.

Equally riveting was the shot of former slugger Rusty Staub, getting a shoeshine the same time as former manager Walter Alston was getting a haircut.

In the middle of July, sports news can be slow until football starts — unless your baseball team is lighting it up. In the recent past, the Green Bay Packers have pushed the Brewers off the cover by now.

Today, there is plenty to talk about with the surprising Brewers, whose big lead in the NL Central was helped by a couple of huge wins toward the break.

The 11-2 blowout victory over the Chicago Cubs, along with the series-clinching 5-3 win over the Yankees, increased their hold on first place to 5½ games. More importantly, those wins may have kick-started the indefinable little wheel of providence conferred on teams when it’s “their year.”

If it’s true that the road to the Central title still runs through Chicago, then it’s important to beat the Cubs head-to-head as often as possible. The Brewers were 3-5 against the Cubs this season coming into the July 6 rainout makeup game, although the teams play each other tough no matter who’s up or down. Throughout their 132 meetings since 2010 and prior to the rainout game, the Brewers and Cubs were 66-66.

The Cubs, who trailed the Brewers by 3½ going into that game, would then host Pittsburgh for three games while the Brewers would presumably have their hands full in their series at Yankee Stadium. Things seemed to be lining up for the Cubs.

But then came two runs in the first inning and seven more in the third. The Cubs, paddled 11-2 in this statement game and now 4½ games back, never had a chance.

Then, after beating the Yankees in the series opener, the Brewers lost the second game in gutting fashion. Protecting a lead in the ninth, relief ace Corey Knebel allowed a three-run walk-off home run to Clint Frazier in the 5-3 defeat.

How the Brewers would respond to such a deflating loss was answered in the first inning of the rubber match, when Travis Shaw took back the momentum with a three-run homer. The Brewers never trailed. With Knebel again pitching in the ninth, they were up 5-3.

The memory of the last night’s blown save was still fresh, but this time Knebel nailed it down, striking out the side for good measure. In a game of significant importance, confidence was restored.

With their 50-41 start, the Brewers have set the stage for an interesting second half of the season. Full-time optimists and hardcore dreamers will note that the Brewers have won their series against the Red Sox and the Yankees. In the event they finish the season with the same record and go on to meet in the World Series, a Game 7 would be at Miller Park.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. To contact him, send an email to sports@wolfrivermedia.com.