The calm approach has been difficult to maintain since the start of September. The Brewers lost seven of their first nine games on a homestand against the Mets, Padres and Reds, and needed a win Wednesday behind CC Sabathia to avoid a three-game Cincinnati sweep. Milwaukee hitters batted .216 (66-for-305) in the first nine games of the homestand, including .158 (12-for-76) with runners in scoring position.
The slump has cost the Brewers an opportunity to gain ground on the National League Central-leading Cubs, who had lost eight of their past nine games through Tuesday's 4-3 setback in St. Louis. That game prompted Piniella to say his team was "playing like we're waiting to get beat."
"You don't have a big enough lead in September to play ball like that," Piniella said, loud enough for Cubs players in the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium to hear. "Teams who play baseball like that invariably get caught, no matter how big the lead."
The Cubs entered Wednesday with a 4 1/2-game lead on the Brewers. Milwaukee had 17 games to play and Chicago had 18.
At the same time, the Brewers held a three-game lead over the Phillies in the NL Wild Card standings. The Cardinals were next, 3 1/2 games behind the Brewers, and the red-hot Astros were suddenly four games back.
"Lou hates to lose, we all hate to lose," Yost said. "This is no fun for any of us, going through this. But my mind-set, my thought process, is that the more steady and even-keeled we can stay, the quicker we'll get out of it. I don't want my kids pressing or stressing because I'm screaming and yelling at them. They've got enough of that coming from the radio shows and the fans and their moms and dads."
That was a bit of an inside joke. Yost has laughed in the past about how hard his own mother, watching from her home in Atlanta, can be particularly hard on the Brewers when they don't play well.
A few more hits would help bolster Yost's sense of humor. On Tuesday, the Brewers had only five hits in 11 innings, and two came from pinch-hitters. That means the eight positional starters combined for all of three hits, including Prince Fielder's two singles.
On Wednesday, as usual before day games, batting practice was optional. A number of players took the opportunity for a mental break.
"If you take a look at the total picture, we're pitching really good and our defense, for the most part, has been really good," said Yost, ignoring two potentially devastating errors by second baseman Rickie Weeks on Tuesday night. "We're just struggling offensively to get hits right now. It's gone from struggling to get hits with runners in scoring position to getting hits, period."