Left fielder Ryan Braun went 0-for-4 in Wednesday's loss to the Cubs to slip back below the Mets' Jose Reyes in the race for the NL batting title. Braun's average dropped to .330, one point behind Reyes, whose club was scheduled to play in St. Louis later in the day.
While some players are reluctant to admit they're eyeing the elusive crown, Braun surely isn't one of them.
"I'm paying attention to it," Braun said. "I'm not going to pretend like I'm not. During an at-bat, throughout the course of the game, it's pretty easy to not pay attention to it, because obviously we're playing for a lot more as a team. ... But at the end of the day, I'm looking at where [Reyes] is at."
Over his next three games, Braun will face Marlins pitchers Chris Volstad, Alex Sanabia and Ricky Nolasco. Lifetime, he's .222 (2-for-9) against both Volstad and Nolasco, and he's never faced Sanabia.
Including Wednesday night, Reyes faced matchups with St. Louis' Jake Westbrook and Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. As impressive as that list sounds, for his career, Reyes entered the stretch a combined .378 (28-for-74) off the quartet, which features three Cy Young Awards, a World Series MVP Award and 14 All-Star appearances.
Should Braun find himself with an edge over Reyes after the Brewers clinch, manager Ron Roenicke expressed an open mind about resting players to preserve statistical milestones.
"You always try to do things for the players," Roenicke said. "These guys bust their butts all year, and if you come down to the end and [a game] doesn't mean anything one way or the other, you take care of the players. They deserve me to stand behind whatever they want to do. Some guys, it's 'I'm playing.' Other guys say, 'I'm fine if you get me a couple of at-bats and get me out of there.'"
That decision, however, is still a few games away. Still, the title of batting champion would be an unparalleled honor for the 27-year-old in his fifth season in the Majors.
"It would be special," Braun said. "I think probably the coolest thing you can win as a hitter is the batting title. It would definitely mean a lot. I think for all of us, we strive for consistency throughout the season. I don't think it's possible to win an award like that without being pretty consistent."