The Brewers were the hottest team in the National League when Sabathia arrived, winners of 29 of their last 44 games and in third place in the NL Central.
Sabathia certainly does not guarantee the Brewers their first postseason appearance since Game 7 of the 1982 World Series. He can only pitch every five days, meaning he'll pitch for Milwaukee 17-18 times before heading into free agency.
Still, the trade that brought him to the Brewers sparked a celebration of sorts, both in the clubhouse and in the stands at Miller Park.
Brewers manager Ned Yost was trying to temper the expectations.
"I think he's going to come in here and really be good, but don't think that the National League called me today and said, 'You've got a bye, you're in the World Series,'" Yost said. "Forget it. I didn't get that call. We all need to step up like we've been doing the last couple of weeks."
Only Tampa Bay had a better record over the six weeks that preceded Sabathia's arrival in Milwaukee. After a very slow start offensively, Ryan Braun and Co. had returned to the upper quarter of homer-hitting teams in the NL, Salomon Torres stepped in for injured closer Eric Gagne in mid-May to stabilize the bullpen and Seth McClung had a similar stabilizing effect on a starting rotation that lost young stud Yovani Gallardo in early May to a serious knee injury.
The Brewers are still on the lookout for bullpen arms and perhaps a left-handed bat, but they filled their primary need for starting pitching with the July 7 addition of Sabathia, who was 6-8 this season in Cleveland despite a respectable 3.83 ERA.
The Brewers considered other options, among them veterans Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf of the Padres. But Sabathia was the best arm available, so general manager Doug Melvin agreed early with Indians GM Mark Shapiro to include top Brewers prospect Matt LaPorta in a deal for Sabathia.
"We didn't feel the 'Plan Bs' would have taken us to the level we wanted to go to," Melvin said.
|BREWERS TOP PERFORMANCES|
4/26, MIL 4, FLA 3 -- Brewers flash leather
Corey Hart and Ryan Braun each make a diving catch to save an extra-base hit.
5/8, MIL 4, STL 3 -- Walk-off courtesy of Weeks
Rickie Weeks strokes a two-out, bases loaded, walk-off single, his second of the season.
5/20, MIL 7, PIT 2 -- Hot streak begins
Corey Hart homers in a Brewers victory that kicked off a red-hot streak for the Brewers that lasted into the break.
6/15, MIL 4, MIN 2 -- Doing it for dad
With his father and kids in attendance on Father's Day, Mike Cameron hits the decisive homer.
7/1, MIL 8, ARI 6 -- Hall's diving stab
Bill Hall makes a leaping dive at the line to rob an extra-base hit.
That level is the postseason. The Brewers have not been there since 1982, when the late August addition of future Hall of Famer Don Sutton helped propel a veteran-rich team to Game 7 of the World Series.
"Could we go out and win without CC?" Melvin asked. "Yeah, there's always that possibility. I am confident that we could, but it would have been a lot more difficult. There's a lot more risk involved and there's a lot less leeway if there was an injury.
"I think there's more risk involved in us trying to win without a player of his caliber in the rotation. Matt LaPorta is going to be a good big league player, and I hope he is."
The Brewers will begin the second half with six starting pitchers if you count Jeff Suppan, who is on the disabled list with irritation in his right elbow. Assuming Suppan comes off the DL on July 22 when he's eligible, Yost may elect to platoon Dave Bush and McClung in the fifth starter's spot, using Bush in home games and McClung on the road.
Or, one of those pitchers could be sent to the bullpen to serve as a long man and an insurance policy against another injury. There are few options at Triple-A Nashville.
"It gives us some really quality depth," Yost said of Sabathia's arrival. "It's really nice to have a pitcher of his caliber, but we still have a lot of work to do. He's going to help us get there, but this still is a 25-man team. This is by no means all put on [Sabathia]. If we get to the next level, it's going to be because of all of us."