Yelich opens MVP defense with clutch HR

March 28th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Robin Yount’s advice as begins his defense of the 2018 National League MVP Award? Don’t change a thing.

With two-time American League MVP Award winner Yount looking on, Yelich began his second season in Milwaukee with a bang on Thursday afternoon, when he smashed a go-ahead three-run home run just out of the reach of Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader to give the Brewers a 4-3 lead on the way to a 5-4 win at sold-out Miller Park.

Yelich’s shot was the Brewers’ second of three home runs off Cards starter Miles Mikolas, who had been staked to a 3-0 lead in the second inning on back-to-back home runs by Kolten Wong and Bader on consecutive pitches from Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin. Mike Moustakas got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning with a solo homer before Yelich went deep one inning later.

It marked a promising start for 27-year-old Yelich, who last season led the NL with a .326 average, a .598 slugging percentage and a 1.000 OPS while hitting 36 home runs with 110 RBIs.

The Cardinals were cautious. Yelich grounded out in his first at-bat Thursday, homered in his second and then walked in each of his final two plate appearances with the bases empty.

“There's no question they're going to be more careful with him, and today was a great example,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “But it was also a great example of what happens when we get guys on base in front of him, because then you have to pitch to him. We did a nice job of that in the third. He had some good at-bats.”

“I think I’ll have the same approach I’ve always had in my career,” Yelich said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

That’s the right approach, said Yount.

"You basically don’t change anything,” Yount said of the advice he’d give. “You are who you are, and you play one day at a time, one pitch at a time, and let your talent carry over. You try, certainly, not to overthink it. If you try before the season even starts to think about repeating what you did last year, more than likely your mind is not in the right place to do that.”

Yelich participated in an all-MVP pregame ceremony prior to Thursday’s season opener. The Brewers’ four league MVP Award winners -- Rollie Fingers (1981), Yount ('82, ’89), Ryan Braun (2011) and Yelich ('18) -- paired up for ceremonial first pitches.

“I don’t know how many organizations have four MVPs who are still able to stand up and throw a first pitch and catch them!” Yount said. “I think that’s pretty cool.”