Notes: Players watching scoreboard

Notes: Players watching scoreboard

HOUSTON -- Some players like to just sneak a peek every once and a while. Some deny they ever do it. Others unabashedly gaze at the numbers.

It's scoreboard watching time for teams still in a playoff race all around baseball, and the Brewers are new enough at it, they don't even try to hide it.

"Everyone does it," J.J. Hardy said. "If they say they're not, they're probably lying.

"You want to know what's going on with the other teams. It's fun to do it, and we've never been able to before because we weren't playing for anything."

Now every game counts as the Cubs and Brewers go down to the wire. Watching the hand-operated scoreboard at a field like Minute Maid Park makes it that much more exciting as the innings slowly turn over from other games around the league.

"It's impossible not to [scoreboard watch]," Ryan Braun said with an easy smile. "We're all aware of what the other clubs are doing and you have to look.

"There's less than two weeks to go, and you have to approach every game like it's the last one of the season. And you want to know what the other teams are doing."

The Brewers were pumped watching the scoreboard Monday night in the late innings of their 6-0 win over Houston with the Cubs trailing the Reds, 6-4. A Cubs loss would have left the Brewers tied for the National League Central's top spot.

Moments after they won, most of the Brewers gathered around the two televisions in the clubhouse to watch the end of the Cubs game, only to be disappointed when Chicago came back to win it 7-6 in the ninth.

"It's unbelievable to be in this position," Braun said. "It's just fun to come out and be playing in meaningful games every day."

Even manager Ned Yost can't deny scoreboard watching.

"That's half the fun of it," Yost said. "You want to make sure you don't get hit in the head while you're out there watching the scoreboard. But we've worked hard to get in this position. So why not?

"That doesn't mean you don't take care of your own stuff. We know that no matter what, we just have to win today. If you win, everything will take care of itself."

Let 'em play: The Brewers were in the division race early on two years ago, then faded in the second half. But Yost says there's one primary difference this year.

"Loads of talent," he said. "You win with talent. You stay consistent with talent. The team a couple of years ago played hard, but it didn't have the talent this one has.

"It's just pure talent."

Yost jokingly says even his considerable managing talents can't make a huge impact over a long season -- without talent.

"It has nothing to do with the manager, or at least very little," Yost said. "Talent is everything.

"Over the course of a 162-game season, everything will get exposed. You just have to have talent to come out on top in the end. Two years ago, we didn't have the players to compete in the long run. We battled hard to get to 81-81. Then last year, injuries killed us.

"But this year, we've had the talent. You can't do it without that."

And it's difficult to mess it up with it.

"If you're really smart," Yost said, "you just let them play."

Like the 1982 Brewers, who had such players as Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount and Gorman Thomas and won 95 games and the American League championship on their way to the World Series under manager Harvey Kuenn.

"Just ask those '82 players," Yost said. "Harvey just let them play."

Hank Aaron finalist: Prince Fielder is a finalist for the 2007 Hank Aaron Award for best overall offensive performance in the NL this season, an honor that will be decided by fan voting. The other finalists are the Braves' Chipper Jones, the Mets' Jose Reyes, the Reds' Ken Griffey Jr. and the Cardinals' Albert Pujols.

Fielder became only the fifth player in Brewers history to record 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored in the same season when he scored in Monday's game. He already had the club mark for homers (46) and he's closing in on the team record for extra-base hits, just six behind Yount's 87 in 1982.

Just being an Aaron Award finalist would seem to validate that Fielder has indeed arrived in the minds of league observers.

"He doesn't need to validate anything with me," Yost said. "I know how good he is."

Honest effort: While they have been out of it realistically for some time, the Astros became the first NL Central team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with their loss on Monday. But they continue to battle and run out their best players for the most part. Yost expects that.

He recalls how the Brewers beat the Cardinals two of the last four games last season as the Astros almost pulled off a last-gasp run for the playoffs, finishing one game behind St. Louis.

"That's kind of the unwritten rule," he said. "You play to win to the very end. We've been in that [spoiler] position a lot in the past. We know what it's like. You put your best players on the field and try to win every one of them."

On deck: The Brewers close out the three-game series with Houston Wednesday as Dave Bush (11-10, 5.34 ERA) faces Juan Gutierrez (1-1, 6.10). Milwaukee heads to Atlanta for four games starting Thursday.

Jim Carley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.