PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers woke up on Easter Sunday with the best record in baseball, thanks to an early-season hot streak fueled by high-leverage hits and shutdown relief.
Shades of 1987, anyone?
"These guys have a mentality right now, I think, that they feel like they can come back and win ballgames," said Brewers TV analyst Bill Schroeder. "They've got a lot of confidence. I remember feeling that way in '87 when we started the season."
Schroeder shared catching duties with B.J. Surhoff in 1987, when the Brewers started the season 13-0 to set an American League record and tie the mark for the best start in Major League history. Win No. 12 was one of the most memorable in franchise history, sealed on a sunny Easter Sunday at Milwaukee County Stadium when Rob Deer crushing a tying, three-run home run with one out in the ninth inning against the Rangers, and Dale Sveum added a winning two-run shot with two outs.
Those Brewers came from behind again in Chicago two days later, getting seventh-inning RBI hits from Paul Molitor and Robin Yount to beat the White Sox, with Dan Plesac logging his fifth save in as many tries. The 13-0 start tied a record set by the '82 Atlanta Braves.
Schroeder didn't play on Easter Sunday, but he worked a leadoff walk that sparked the winning rally in win No. 13.
At the time, the Brewers were riding high.
"I`ve pinched myself every day since I`ve been here," said reliever Chuck Crim, the winning pitcher in Game No. 13.
"This is the greatest thing that I`ve ever been through," Deer said.
"This is a special group of guys, and they`re in a special situation right now," said Tom Trebelhorn, the manager of the 1987 team.
Does this 2014 start feel the same?
"I try not to make comparisons, but I do remember that we felt like we were kind of invincible there for a while," Schroeder said. "When I watch these guys today, I don't really think of '87. I really don't ever do that, because it's hard to compare the two.
"But I think these guys have similar confidence in that when they make mistakes, they brush them off. The last two games [Friday and Saturday against the Pirates], they had no business winning."
The 1987 team was different, Bob Uecker said, in that Trebelhorn played much more station-to-station than current manager Ron Roenicke, and the Brewers had more of an identity as a powerhouse offense. They went cold in May, losing 12 in a row in one stretch.
But games like Saturday's win over the Pirates offer some subtle similarities to the '87 club's hot start. Trailing most of the night after Rickie Weeks' fourth-inning error led to a five-run Pirates rally, Ryan Braun homered in the seventh inning to make it a one-run game and added a two-run shot in the ninth against Jason Grilli, who had made 17 straight appearances against the Brewers without allowing a run. Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez worked the ninth for his sixth save in as many tries.
It was the Brewers' fifth come-from-behind victory, and gave them an MLB-best 13-5 record.
"When you're going good, bad things happen, but you don't even look at them as bad," Uecker said. "They don't seem like a big deal. When you get into one of those streaks, you expect to win. These guys expect to win right now."
Schafer not expected to need full 15 days to recover
PITTSBURGH -- Logan Schafer does not expect to need two weeks to heal his strained right hamstring, but the Brewers' outfield situation and a corresponding roster move made his stint on the 15-day disabled list a necessity on Sunday.
Schafer was placed on the DL retroactive to Friday, the day after he felt a pop in his hamstring while preparing to pinch-hit. The Brewers needed the 25-man roster spot for backup first baseman Lyle Overbay, whose return from the three-day paternity list was mandated by rule.
Had the Brewers simply returned utility man Elian Herrera to Triple-A Nashville, they would have been without a true backup outfielder. Now, while Schafer heals, the versatile, switch-hitting Herrera can fill that role, with infielders Jeff Bianchi or Mark Reynolds also available to man a corner outfield position in a pinch.
"It's not going to take 15 days, but they couldn't be without someone for a week or however long it takes," said Schafer, who landed on the DL for the first time in his career. "I understand that."
Overbay, meanwhile, returned from the birth of a son. Sarah Overbay went into labor Thursday morning, and Lyle raced back to Milwaukee in time to greet Eddie Christian, with both baby and mom healthy and well.
"I made it," Overbay said. "I wasn't sure if I [would], because she was progressing quick."
The Overbays now have four sons and a daughter in the family. Their last two children were both in-season, and Major League Baseball's paternity list allowed Lyle to attend the births. For that, he was thankful.
"This one decided to come early," Overbay said. "We were hoping to do it on that off-day Thursday, but he was a week, week and a half early. We know coming in that every game counts ... [but] it is an important thing to be there."
K-Rod passes Gossage on all-time saves list
PITTSBURGH -- With three saves in as many days against the Pirates, Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez has bumped Hall of Famer Goose Gossage out of Major League Baseball's all-time Top 20 and tied "The Terminator," Tom Henke, for 19th all-time with 311 career saves.
Including his scoreless appearance in the 14th inning of the Brewers' 3-2 win on Sunday, Rodriguez has seven saves in 10 scoreless appearances this season. When he tied Gossage at 310 saves the night before, Rodriguez didn't even know.
Fellow reliever Brandon Kintzler told him.
"It means a lot. When you're right there with a Hall of Famer, I take a lot of pride in that," Rodriguez said. "But at the same time, I'm not pitching for records at all. I pitch because I like this game, not for records or anything.
"But it's a privilege for me to be on that list. Definitely, it is."
Rodriguez did not expect to join that list on Saturday, not after a Rickie Weeks error led to a five-run Pirates rally and a Brewers deficit against Jason Grilli in the top of the ninth inning. When Ryan Braun stepped to the plate with a man on, Rodriguez stood up and prepared to get loose. If Braun reached base, Rodriguez would begin to warm up.
Instead, Braun lined a go-ahead home run right into the Brewers' bullpen.
"I hadn't even stretched," Rodriguez said. "I turn around and the ball is coming flying into us, so I had to start getting ready quick. The only thing that saved me was -- it might sound bad -- but [Aramis Ramirez] getting hit by a pitch, so I got a little more time to get what I need."
Rodriguez went through the same routine twice on Sunday, first when Braun tied the game at 2 with another ninth-inning home run off Grilli, and again after Khris Davis homered in the 14th for the Brewers' first lead. Rodriguez surrendered a two-out single to Pedro Alvarez, but struck out Starling Marte to end the game.
The next man for Rodriguez to catch on the all-time list is former San Francisco Giant Robb Nen, who saved 314 games from 1993-2002.
"[Rodriguez] is not that old, either," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said, "so hopefully he'll get a lot more. He's throwing the ball really well."
• Ramirez was out of the lineup Sunday after being struck on the right forearm Saturday night, but Roenicke said it was already a scheduled break for the veteran. Ramirez is one of several Brewers, including Roenicke himself, battling illness.
• Kintzler, on the DL with a right shoulder injury, will throw a bullpen session Monday at Miller Park. If that goes well, he will throw either a bullpen or a simulated game on Wednesday, and he is on track to be activated on Friday.