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With Yelich out, Moose leads Crew into WC tie

On 31st birthday, third baseman hits homers No. 32 and 33; Braun wears Yeli's jersey as undershirt
@cdenicola13
September 11, 2019

MIAMI -- Christian Yelich may not have been with the Brewers for Wednesday night’s 7-5 victory over the Marlins, but he was certainly there in spirit. Birthday boy Mike Moustakas knocked two homers, including the go-ahead two-run blast in the ninth, as the Brewers extended their winning streak to six.

MIAMI -- Christian Yelich may not have been with the Brewers for Wednesday night’s 7-5 victory over the Marlins, but he was certainly there in spirit.

Birthday boy Mike Moustakas knocked two homers, including the go-ahead two-run blast in the ninth, as the Brewers extended their winning streak to six. In the club’s first game without the reigning National League MVP Award winner, Ryan Braun even wore Yelich’s jersey under his own.

Box score

“I think everybody enjoyed it. A little laugh before the game. Keep the boys loose,” said Braun, who didn’t rule out donning it again for Thursday’s series finale at Marlins Park. “Didn't necessarily help me personally, but for us as a group offensively, maybe it contributed to our success. Got to roll with it, got to keep it going.”

With the win, Milwaukee moved into a tie with the Cubs for the second National League Wild Card spot with 17 contests remaining. Chicago lost, 4-0, to the Padres.

“That’s what you do,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Look, we miss Yeli, but our mission hasn’t changed. We march forward, and we’re in a position where there’s less than three weeks to go and we’ve got a shot and we’ve got a lot to play for.”

Much talk following Yelich’s injury concerned how the Brewers would respond to such a big blow in the middle of a postseason chase.

Decisions loom for Brewers without Yelich

In his return to the starting lineup, Moustakas took over Yelich’s No. 3 spot in the order and provided a resounding answer. The 31-year-old launched a three-run dinger in the third off Marlins starter Pablo Lopez before recording his fourth multihomer game of the season with a two-run tater off closer Jose Urena in the ninth.

According to STATS, Moustakas is the first infielder with five-plus RBIs on his birthday since Alex Rodriguez in 2002 and the first NL infielder to do so since Bill Mazeroski in 1966.

Moustakas, who has been dealing with a bone bruise in his left hand, had made just one start since Aug. 26. But he wasn’t too concerned with shaking off rust because he had gotten occasional plate appearances, including an intentional walk during Tuesday’s win.

“I haven't been in a grind with the boys the last week and a half, two weeks, so obviously my body feels a little bit better,” said Moustakas, who was 3-for-17 with three RBIs on his birthday entering Wednesday. “Been able to rest a little bit. Feel a lot better in general. The training staff again has been doing a great job with getting my wrist and hand ready to go. Two weeks off at the end of the season makes you feel pretty good. Hoping to keep this going on for the next 17 or so games.”

And Moustakas wasn’t the only one stepping up.

Rookie Trent Grisham, who will fill a more prominent role in Yelich’s absence, went deep to lead off the game. Starter Zach Davies contributed an RBI single to help his own cause, while Brent Suter recorded three scoreless relief innings to bridge the gap to closer Josh Hader for his 30th save.

“It's an opportunity and challenge for everybody in this clubhouse,” Moustakas said. “You guys see what Yeli's able to do and what he's been able to do the last couple of seasons, having another MVP-type of season. It hurts a lot to lose him, but at the end of the day, we've got to find ways to win.

“It's going to take everybody in this locker room and the coaching staff and everybody to figure out how to get to October. We'll see what happens at the end of the season, but I think we're going to go out there and give it everything we've got every single night and see what happens.”

Christina De Nicola is a reporter and game producer for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow her on Twitter @CDeNicola13.