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Yelich returns for pivotal at-bat vs. Minor

Brewers star comes off bench to standing ovation after missing 5 starts
@AdamMcCalvy
August 11, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Jordan Lyles limited the Rangers to one hard-fought run over seven innings and Christian Yelich returned to action to a standing ovation after missing a fifth straight start because of a bad back. But the Brewers had one Minor problem on Sunday: Mike Minor, the Rangers' left-hander who

MILWAUKEE -- Jordan Lyles limited the Rangers to one hard-fought run over seven innings and Christian Yelich returned to action to a standing ovation after missing a fifth straight start because of a bad back.

But the Brewers had one Minor problem on Sunday: Mike Minor, the Rangers' left-hander who carved through eight scoreless -- and mostly stress-free -- innings to send the Brewers to a 1-0 loss at Miller Park that halted Milwaukee’s five-game winning streak.

Box score

Minor scattered four hits and a walk while striking out 11 in a performance that denied a sellout crowd the opportunity to voice its support until the eighth inning, when Hernan Perez led off with a double to put the tying runner in scoring position for Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Keston Hiura. Yelich struck out as a pinch-hitter in his first plate appearance since his back stiffened in the wake of a two-homer game on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. Cain grounded out, and Hiura flew out.

It was the Brewers’ best and last threat in a loss that dropped them 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central.

"He was really good,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Minor. “For most of the day, it was three pitches to both sides of the plate and excellent command with all three pitches. I think the Yelich at-bat, where he breaks out some slower curveballs, without throwing maybe one or two before that, is why it was such an impressive game.

“To have feel for that in that situation, in that at-bat -- he just kept making pitches. We had plenty of at-bats where guys just weren't getting pitches to hit."

The Yelich-Minor matchup was the highlight of the day, an opportunity for a sellout crowd of 44,411 to stretch their legs and exercise their vocal chords.

Counsell said he was going to hit his NL MVP candidate in that spot no matter the outcome of the first batter of the inning, Hernan Perez, who got things going with a double. It was Milwaukee’s only extra-base hit.

“I faced him a decent amount when he was with Atlanta,” said Yelich, who entered the day 3-for-11 against Minor. “He’d kind of been going with that cutter a lot to lefties, and I didn’t see it one time. He made some good pitches. Probably the best pitch to hit was the 1-0 breaking ball.”

Yelich took that pitch for a called strike. When he got another two pitches later, Yelich took a mighty cut and missed. Then he fouled off a changeup for strike two before fanning at a fastball away.

Minor was on his way to an escape.

“Before the inning started I saw [Yelich] in the tunnel and I thought he might pinch-hit,” Minor said. “We went over him, went over [Orlando] Arcia, went over [Eric] Thames, just in case that spot came up and they pinch-hit somebody. It worked out for us with the sequences we had. [Yelich] is probably not 100 percent, and that might’ve affected him on a couple of swings.”

“That’s baseball,” Yelich said, “but it was good to be out there again and be healthy.”

Did his appearance mean he’s likely to be back in the Brewers’ lineup on Tuesday against the Twins?

“I mean, it’s looking like it,” Yelich said. “You would have to ask Couns’. But I feel good. It was nice to feel that.”

Lyles took a tough-luck loss after allowing a run on three hits and four walks (one intentional) with nine strikeouts in seven innings. The game’s only run scored after Lyles walked Willie Calhoun leading off the seventh and Rougned Odor ripped a double down the right-field line that ticked off first baseman Yasmani Grandal’s glove. Two batters later, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, whose defensive stop at third base denied Ryan Braun a run-scoring hit in the first inning, lifted a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.

When the Brewers traded for Lyles two weeks ago, he had a 9.57 ERA over his final nine starts for the Pirates. But he’s been sharp for Milwaukee, allowing three earned runs in 17 innings since the swap.

“It was kind of a new season for myself,” Lyles said. “I came to a good place over here, being familiar with a lot of things [catchers] Manny [Pina] and Yaz [Yasmani Grandal] like to do with elevation. That plays into my role and my arsenal.”

Said Counsell: “He pitched excellent. He did a great job. He gave us everything he could,” Counsell said. “Seven innings, one run, we’ve got to make that stand up, for sure. We should be talking about him winning us the game. But the other guy was just a little bit better.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.