Braun, Fielder Keep Hitting
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Prince Fielder and the rest of the Milwaukee Brewers no longer peek at the out-of-town scoreboard.
"I don't know how far away we are," Fielder said. "All I know is you've got to keep playing baseball and see what happens because time is running out. We either start playing good, or if not, we go to the house."
A year after the Brewers made a captivating run to the NL wild card and reached the postseason for the first time in 26 years, their chances are fading. Injuries have hurt, as have the offseason departures of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets to free agency.
If it's been hard on the two young All-Stars, Ryan Braun and Fielder, it hasn't affected them on the field.
Fielder is hitting .309 with 30 homers and a major-league best 105 RBIs heading into Monday's play. Braun is batting .316 with 26 homers and 86 RBIs.
"They're rocks," veteran Frank Catalanotto said. "They're the same every single day whether we're winning or losing."
The Brewers began Monday eight games behind St. Louis in the NL Central after taking a two-game lead into July. They were 6 1/2 game behind Colorado for the wild card.
A 9-17 month has dimmed the Brewers' postseason chances, along with injuries to starters Dave Bush (triceps) and Jeff Suppan (oblique).
"I think everybody's still a little surprised by what's happened, but it's not necessarily a different mood," Braun said.
Both Braun and Fielder have had to learn hard lessons during the rough stretch and deal with the departures of two of their close teammates. Shortstop J.J. Hardy was demoted to the minors and third baseman Bill Hall was cut.
"It's unfortunate, but it's not my job. That's not my call. I really don't know what the reason was," Fielder said.
In July, Braun raised the ire of general manager Doug Melvin by criticizing the team's starters after a tough series against the Cubs and asking the front office to make a trade.
Melvin chided the young slugger publicly, saying the comments were disrespectful to his teammates and the front office. The trade deadline passed without a major move.
Earlier this month, Fielder was plunked by former teammate and reliever Guillermo Mota in the ninth inning of a Dodgers' 17-4 rout.
Fielder tried storming the Dodgers clubhouse, but was held back by Braun, Hall, Casey McGehee, security guards and others.
Fielder cooled down in the clubhouse long enough that night to joke that he didn't know what anyone was talking about, but he said this week he realizes being anxious doesn't help the team.
"It gets frustrating when you don't win, but it's my job, so it really doesn't matter how I feel," he said. "All the feelings once the game starts have to be inside."
Brewers manager Ken Macha said he's not worried about either of his stars becoming distracted down the stretch, even if Milwaukee fails to catch up in the standings.
"Both of those guys got a little bit of perspective of what's going on and what needs to be done, and I feel good about those guys," Macha said. "Prince goes out there, gives no at-bats away, doesn't matter what the score is, anything. Didn't even want out of the game in (Los Angeles) when we had the problem. He's been terrific."
Braun, meanwhile, is carefully measuring his words to the media. He's declined to discuss the clubhouse atmosphere during the recent skid, but said he admires Mike Cameron, Trevor Hoffman, Craig Counsell and Jason Kendall's veteran influence.
"I've always felt like I am a leader inherently," Braun said. "The more success you have, the more time you spend in the league, I think the more respect you get from your peers and I think people just see the way you go about your business."
The heart of the Brewers' order will have a big part to play in the division, whether Milwaukee stays close or not, with nine games against St. Louis and seven more with the Chicago Cubs, all in September and October.
"We're just trying to win some games and get ourselves into contention. I was hoping that maybe we could get it down to three games before we got to September," Macha said. "Forget the scoreboard. The scoreboard is a non-factor right now."
Catalanotto said they were watching the Cubs and Cardinals closely earlier in the season. That's not nearly as important now.
"If we get on a nice roll, win 10 games in a row, then it might be time to start looking at the standings again. But for right now, we're just worried with ourselves and not what everyone else is doing," Catalanotto said. "We'll worry about the standings later."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)