MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers expect to top 2.5 million in attendance this season, which would be their lowest total since 2006, but an acceptable figure given the team's tumult on and off the field, COO Rick Schlesinger said.
"My goal at the beginning of the year is always above that, but in light of the team performance and some of the other things going on, it's a reflection of [the challenges] we have accommodated," Schlesinger said.
Those challenges include a 64-82 record entering Saturday, injuries throughout the starting lineup and, most notably, Ryan Braun's season-ending suspension for violations of the Joint Drug Program. Braun's admission created public relations problems for the Brewers, which the club addressed in part by giving every fan who passed through the turnstiles in August a $10 voucher good for food, beverage, merchandise and tickets. Attendance topped 30,000 for all but one of the Brewers' August home games.
After drawing 39,665 fans on Friday night to open the season's final homestand, the Brewers ranked 13th of the 30 Major League teams with a 31,745 average attendance per home game, good for third among National League Central teams behind the Cardinals and Cubs, but ahead of the Reds and Pirates.
By filling Miller Park to a 73.8 percent capacity on average, they also ranked 13th in MLB and third in the NL Central.
"Given all the things we had to deal with, we're still above league average," Schlesinger said. "Obviously, I want to get back to the three [million mark], but team performance is a vast determiner of those numbers."
Gomez not frustrated by recent struggles
MILWAUKEE -- Because his batting average has fallen more than 40 points and his OPS more than 125 points since the start of June, it would be natural for Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez to be feeling a bit frustrated as the season grinds to an end.
Gomez insisted that is not the case.
"I don't feel frustrated like people think," he said. "I'm still hitting .280. What's my career high average, .260? I'm still way over. Everything is high. The worst thing we've been through this year is we don't win games, but personally, I'm better in my overall numbers."
He hit a career-best .260 last season with 19 home runs, a total he has matched this season. His 62 RBIs this season eclipse his career-best 59 in 2008. His .336 on-base percentage is 31 points higher than the career high he set last year. Manager Ron Roenicke praised Gomez's improvements, saying "he's learned a lot" in the past two years and produced much more sophisticated at-bats.
Gomez made the National League All-Star team for the first time this season, and next season will enter the three-year, $24 million contract extension he signed in March. Before inking that deal, Gomez was on track to be a free agent this winter.
"I think just signing him up has made a difference in what's happened this year," Roenicke said. "Can you imagine the frustration when you're emotional like he is, and you're trying to have a big year when you're a free agent? I don't think that would be fun for any of us."
Nagging injuries help explain Gomez's production drop. His all-out style in center field produced left shoulder, right elbow and right knee injuries, and he also has dealt with a sore right thumb. Another explanation is more simple -- regression to the mean.
"Is he a .330 hitter?" Roenicke asked rhetorically. "If a guy is a .260 hitter, OK, he may hit .290 one year, but to go to .330, when you look at what leads the league every year, that's a pretty elite group. A guy usually doesn't have a freak year where he hits that high."
But Roenicke sees Gomez maintaining his current output, and Gomez, who drove in five runs Friday for only his third multi-RBI game since the All-Star break, sees even bigger numbers ahead.
"I know I can do better, but we have more years to continue to make progress," he said. "This year, we'll finish with 20-plus home runs, .280 [batting average], 70 or 80 RBIs, and next year I want 90, 100 [RBIs], 30 home runs, stuff like that. All of my statistics go higher."
• With Jonathan Lucroy due a day off and Aramis Ramirez day-to-day with a bruised left wrist, the Brewers' starting lineup featured two rookies in new batting order positions -- second baseman Scooter Gennett hit third and Khris Davis, back in action after missing seven starts with a sore left wrist, hit cleanup.
When it was remarked to the diminutive Gennett that he has now batted everywhere but cleanup in his 42 Major League starts, he quipped, "I think there's a weight minimum in the four-hole."
• Heading into Saturday, Lucroy had started every game since Aug. 19 at catcher or first base, and had played in every game since the All-Star break. Did he look like he needed a break?
"I don't see it, but I hear it's getting to that point," Roenicke said.
• Yuniesky Betancourt's .236 on-base percentage was the lowest in the Major Leagues entering Saturday for hitters with at least 300 plate appearances, and his -1.8 WAR (via Baseball-Reference.com's measure) was third-worst. Roenicke explained the decision to start Betancourt at first base like this:
"[Johnny] Hellweg pitching has a lot to do with it," Roenicke said, referring to the Brewers rookie with a knack for inducing ground balls. "I want our best defense out there. Yuni is in there some because [Ramirez] isn't in there, so we have to cover both spots. And you know, he's played really good defense all year, and lately he's been swinging the bat well again. He was so good early, then we had that long stretch when he didn't do much, and now he's swinging the bat pretty good, I think.
"He's in like 125 games or something. When we signed him, we didn't think he'd be in 125 games. He's done a nice job for us for what we needed. I think the defense is important. I talk about it all the time, the value that players have is not just offensively. For those numbers, you subtract or you add because of his defense and what they mean to a team. For Yuni, you add to his offense. With some other guys, you subtract, and with some guys, you subtract a lot."
• Gomez was the first player to drive in five or more runs and account for all of the Brewers' runs since Richie Sexson drove in seven in a 7-5 win over the Cardinals on April 18, 2002.