MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich is doing damage again for the Brewers, but his latest blast wasn’t enough to stop a Houston team heading for October.
And the worst part? Yelich couldn’t shake the feeling that the bat was taken out of his hands when it mattered most.
Yelich homered off a club’s closer in the ninth inning for the second straight day, taking the Astros’ Roberto Osuna deep for a tying shot leading off the ninth inning of 10-inning, 3-2 loss on Monday at Miller Park that left a sour feeling in Milwaukee’s clubhouse. Twice -- first leading off the sixth inning and again in the 10th with the winning run on base -- Yelich was rung up on pitches that looked to the Brewers like they were above the zone.
Yelich’s home run was No. 43, temporarily tying for the National League lead before the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger belted No. 44 on Monday night. But Yelich was not in a mood to celebrate.
“I don’t want to say anything that will get myself fined,” Yelich said. “All I’ll say is go watch [the called third strikes] yourselves, make your own judgments, see what happens. At the end of the day, it’s not going to matter. It won’t change anything that happened. It’s just how it works. We have to accept it and that’s it.”
Brewers manager Craig Counsell was more direct.
“It’s two awful calls. I have to say it,” Counsell said. “It’s the magnitude of the spot; it’s the hitter. It’s bad calls. It’s bad umpiring.”
The Astros stranded the winning run at second base in the ninth inning and at first base in the 10th to win on George Springer’s 10th-inning homer off Brewers reliever Junior Guerra, pitching for the third straight day after covering parts of five innings in consecutive shutout victories over the Cubs on Saturday and Sunday at Wrigley Field.
There are no painless losses these days for the Brewers as they attempt to rally to win the right to play in the postseason, but this one stung because it came in the wake of wins by the Cardinals and Cubs. Milwaukee fell seven games back of the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central and four games back of the Cubs in the chase for the NL’s second Wild Card.
The Brewers continued a run of respectable pitching against an Astros team that ranks fourth in the Majors in runs per game and third in slugging. Adrian Houser, Alex Claudio, Brent Suter (in his return from Tommy John surgery), Freddy Peralta and Ray Black held Houston to two runs over the first nine innings while Brewers hitters tried to get something going. Yasmani Grandal homered in the first inning for a 1-0 lead, but Astros co-ace Gerrit Cole recovered to keep pace with teammate Justin Verlander in the American League Cy Young Award debate a day after Verlander pitched a no-hitter in Toronto. Cole matched his season high with 14 strikeouts and topped 100 mph on the 104th of his 105 pitches. According to Elias, Verlander and Cole became the first teammates to strike out 14 or more batters apiece in consecutive games since at least 1893, when the mound was moved to 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate.
If there was a silver lining for the Brewers, it was that Yelich is clearing fences again. A day earlier, Yelich snapped a 12-game power drought with a three-run homer off Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel in a 4-0 Brewers win at Wrigley Field.
“There was never any doubt he was going to get hot and hit home runs,” Counsell said. “He’s going to drive in a lot of runs. He’s right where we need him to be.”
With Monday’s game tied at 2, the Brewers had a chance to beat Osuna when Eric Thames extended the ninth with a single and Osuna flipped a high throw to first base on Cory Spangenberg’s comebacker for a costly error that put the winning run in scoring position. But Travis Shaw, back in the Majors with a chance to author a positive finish to a miserable season, swung at and missed three straight pitches to push the game to extra innings.
The Brewers had a shot again in the 10th against Astros reliever Josh James, whose two walks put the winning run on base with one out for Yelich. It was a high slider that produced the contested strike three. James then struck out Hernan Perez to end the game.
Asked why he didn’t protest more forcefully, Yelich said, “What’s going to happen? The only thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to get ejected. Nothing is going to change. You’re just going to get thrown out of the game, get fined. That’s all that will happen.
“It was definitely a well-pitched game. Gerrit was doing what he’s been doing all year, Houser was able to match him and we were able to battle back there. We just couldn’t push that last one across.”