HELENA — If the Helena Brewers are to make the playoffs in their last season in Helena, it will require a second-half rally.

The Great Falls Voyagers claimed the Pioneer League North Division first half crown. The Brewers actually posted a winning record against the north champs, going 5-3 in the first half.

Helena, Great Falls and Missoula all posted 13-11 records in the division during the first half, suggesting the race for a second-half playoff spot may be just as contested. This could be especially true knowing Great Falls still travels to Ogden and Idaho Falls.

Here’s a look at how the Brewers fared in the first half.

Breaking down by quarters

Through the first quarter of the season, the Brewers were in the thick of the playoff chase, posting a 10-8 record.

And really, until the past week or so, the Brewers had chances to close the gap with the Great Falls Voyagers, but facing the top two teams of the Pioneer League South made matters difficult.

It’s part of the reason the Brewers ended the second quarter of the season with a 7-12 record. A big part of that, as previously mentioned, had to do with facing the top two teams of the South Division on the road and at home.

Transactions

The Brewers have officially made 17 transactions this season. Three Brewers have been promoted to the upper leagues, including left-handed pitcher Clayton Andrews (Class A Wisconsin), catcher Robie Rojas (Class AAA Colorado Springs) and right-handed pitcher J.T. Hintzen (Class A Wisconsin). The Brewers have added seven players from their Arizona League affiliate, and have bumped up one player from the Dominican Summer League.

Affiliate check-in

AAA Colorado Springs: 54-45, second place American Northern Division

AA Biloxi: 18-12 second half (first half champs)

Advanced A Carolina: 14-16 second half, seventh place

Rookie Arizona: 11-16

Weekly Awards

Pitcher Aaron Ashby, a fourth-round selection in the 2018 draft by Milwaukee, earned the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Week for his seven-inning shutout on July 21. He’s the only Brewers player to be recognized by the league this season so far.

He threw a career-high seven innings, allowing two hits. He induce two double plays. He walked one and struck out four, throwing 66 pitches. Ashby is the nephew of Andy Ashby, who pitched in the MLB for 14 seasons.

All-Star potential

Chad McClanahan leads the bats and Wilfred Salaman leads the pitching staff at the halfway point. McClanahan has a .314 batting average with 25 RBIs, 43 hits and a share of the team lead in home runs with six.

Salaman has a team-leading 1.32 ERA. He’s 3-1 with six games pitched and 34 innings thrown. He’s allowed 25 hits, five earned runs, one homer, while striking out 25 and walking 12. These two Brewers could be the best bet to make the Pioneer League All-Star game, which is on Aug. 7 in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Looking forward

The Brewers begin the second half with a four-game road trip against Great Falls, followed by a four-game series against the Missoula Osprey (two home and away). In August, the Brewers have 14 of their 27 games at home.

Writer at the Independent Record, covering college football and minor league baseball.

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