The Milwaukee Brewers have officially reached the point in the season where every game matters (unless the Packers are playing). Despite shitting the bed against the Reds, Milwaukee is still very much in the postseason race. Not as much as they were a few days ago, but there is a lot of baseball left and this team is still alive. Few could’ve predicted it, but the Brewers are playing meaningful baseball in September, so get excited.

The Brewers currently sit 4.5 games behind the Cubs in the division and 2.5 games behind the Rockies for the second Wild Card. The division would obviously be preferable, but the up and down team would take what it can get at this point. The road ahead is not easy. There is no way that the Brewers don’t give the Cubs a run and still stay in the Wild Card race. The only way that they are going to play after October 1 is to win. A lot. With just 22 games left in the season, let’s take a look at what needs to happen for Milwaukee to shock surprise the world.

September 8-10 @ Chicago Cubs
The Brewers making the playoffs is going to be tricky. One false move and it could all slip away soon. Like “this weekend” soon. No exaggeration: this weekend, it could actually all slip away. Fortunately, whether by luck or by design, Milwaukee couldn’t ask for their pitching to line up any better for this series. They’ll have Jimmy Nelson, who has been absolutely fantastic this season, going in game one. Nelson’s ERA ranks just 16th among qualified starters, but when you look at his FIP and xFIP (two stats designed to remove the things a pitcher can’t control), you have the sixth best starter in baseball. The only guys ahead of him have names like Kershaw, Sale, Kluber, and Scherzer. So, yeah, pretty good company. You can now feel safe to buy your kids a Jimmy Nelson shirsey. He’s awesome.

He’ll match up with John Lackey who is…uh, not one of the best starters in baseball. By FIP standards, he ranks 59th, and game one looks quite favorable for the Brew Crew. Follow that up with starts by Chase Anderson and Zach Davies, as well as the fact that the Brewers will avoid Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in this series, and this series against the defending champs and current division leaders feels very winnable.

September 11-13 vs. Pittsburgh
The Brewers have struggled against the Pirates this season, going 5-8 on the year. To keep the postseason in reach, that needs to turn around here. Pittsburgh has almost nothing to play for and they should be without Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco for this series. Despite the fact that the Brewers are giving out this hideous hat, it’s hard not to feel good about this three-game set.

September 15-17 @ Miami
The key to taking this series is very simple: don’t pitch to Giancarlo Stanton. The Marlins are a bad team with one great player chasing a non-record. He won’t beat Barry Bonds. Don’t let him beat you, Milwaukee.

September 18-20 @ Pittsburgh
Anything worse than going 4-2 in the last six games against the Pirates is a failure. Plain and simple.

September 21-24 vs. Chicago
This is it. This is hell. This is Eddie Vedder’s Cubs song played live at Wrigley Field on a loop forever.

When you’re born in Chicago, you’re blessed and you’re healed
The first time you walk into Wrigley Field

Even if things go right for Milwaukee up until this point, they could all go wrong here. Miller Park will be overrun by FIBs like the Army of the Dead in Game Of Thrones. Only these zombies drink Old Style and sing dumb, catchy songs. There is something about this series that excites. The Brewers could steal the division from the World Series champions in their home park! They could do it in front of a large amount of Cubs fans! They could surprise the world!

It’s the flip side that’s scary. If they lose, they lose at home. To the Cubs. In front of a bunch of Cubs fans. That is “clowns in a sewer”-level scary. Anything less than 4-3 against the Cubs in these seven games will kill the dream.

September 26-28 vs. Cincinnati
The way the Brewers played against the Reds these past three games, it would be fitting if it all came down to this. This week, Milwaukee had the chance to make a real move on the Rockies. Instead, Billy freakin’ Hamilton and the bull-freakin’-pen happened. They lost the series and dug themselves a hole that made the road to the playoffs even more difficult and unlikely. Beat the team with the worst pitching in baseball and maybe you can make the playoffs. Lose to them and you deserve to miss the playoffs. Which will it be? Maybe we already found out the answer.

September 29-October 1 @ St. Louis
The worst thing about all this? The Cardinals are surging. With Wednesday’s loss, they have now caught the Brewers in the standings and have an almost identical schedule down the stretch. The Brewers aren’t just fighting for a playoff spot, they’re fighting for second place in the division.

Milwaukee needs help. They need the Dodgers, Padres, and Diamondbacks to beat up on the Rockies. They need the Cardinals to beat the Cubs, but lose to everyone else. The Brewers need to win just about every series and get close to 84 wins heading into the final weekend. If all that happens, maybe this series (and this season) will end up meaning something.