Instant classic: Thames' HR in 14th downs Nats

Yelich homers in 9th and 13th for 41 on the season

August 18th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- was struggling to simply change out of his game clothes. was exasperated, at a loss for words. Craig Counsell was at peace that the cost of the game resulted in a win.

The most energetic source in the Brewers clubhouse after a 15-14 win over the Nationals that took 14 innings and 5 hours and 40 minutes on Saturday night at Nationals Park was the music blaring. Milwaukee was happy to hear it, because there could have been nothing more crushing than silence from being on the other side of a game like that.

The marathon that was one of the craziest games in recent memory featured 38 hits, 19 pitchers (both teams used their entire bullpens), several multirun leads blown, each closer blowing a lead in the ninth and a pitcher with the last name Guerra earning both decisions.

“I can’t really think of another game that was crazier that I’ve ever played in,” Yelich said.

The win moved Milwaukee within a game of the Cardinals and Cubs in both the National League Central and NL Wild Card race.

Yelich, himself, was at the forefront of the craziness. Although he didn’t score or drive in the winning runs -- that honor was reserved for Thames’ two-run home run in the 14th inning -- he was a big part of how the Brewers managed to win this instant classic. Yelich, who was 1-for-15 since returning from a brief absence due to his back, went 5-for-6 with two home runs, four RBIs, three runs scored and a walk. He also stole his 24th base of the season.

Down to their final three outs after blowing 5-0 and 8-5 leads, Yelich’s 40th home run ignited a three-homer, four-run ninth for Milwaukee against Nationals closer Sean Doolittle. Before Mike Moustakas and Ryan Braun, who homered twice in the game, followed suit with home runs off Doolittle, the reigning NL Most Valuable Player became the first player this year to accomplish the 40/20 feat. And his 41st homer in the 13th inning put him right back atop the leaderboards with Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger.

“Like I said, if he’s got an 0-fer on his tab the night before, it’s watch out the next night,” Counsell said of Yelich. “And then he backed that up tonight.”

Both Thames and Yelich did their part to erase what a forgettable night it was for Milwaukee reliever Josh Hader. After Doolittle faltered in the top of the ninth, Hader gave up the tying run and loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the frame. He proceeded to strike out the Nationals’ Nos. 1-3 hitters in what was a welcome sign, especially now that he has blown four of his last five save opportunities.

“It’s in there, still,” Counsell said. “We just have to keep working on it, and hopefully the strikeouts tonight help him.”

The ninth inning was only the tip of the iceberg for the late-night craziness on Saturday. Yelich’s second long ball in the 13th inning seemed like it had enough to be the difference, but the Nationals utilized some small ball, and just like he did in the ninth inning, Victor Robles drove in the game-tying run in the 13th to tie the game at 13.

Then, after Thames sent the Brewers dugout into a frenzy in the 14th inning, the Nationals once again fought back. A throwing error by Keston Hiura on what should have been the last out of the game gave Washington an extra chance and allowed a run to score, making it a one-run game. But the Nationals had the pitcher’s spot in the lineup due up sixth, something Counsell and bench coach Pat Murphy were ready to take advantage of if necessary.

So the Brewers intentionally walked Asdrubal Cabrera while Juan Soto, who reached on the error, took third base to bring up a pinch-hitter, Nats starter Joe Ross. Brewers reliever Junior Guerra got the strikeout he needed to end a humid, long and wild night at Nationals Park.

“We’re all going to sleep for five hours and come back to the field,” Thames said.

The win wipes out the memory of other noteworthy occurrences for the Brewers. Freddy Peralta gave up four runs without recording an out in the sixth inning. The Brewers went 4-for-4 with runners in scoring position in a five-run third inning a night after going 2-for-10 on Friday in those situations. Then there was starter Jordan Lyles, who hit his first bump in the road since being reacquired by the Brewers, allowing five runs over four innings.

“It was a crazy game,” Thames said, “but luckily it’s over and we won.”

“You play this hard and you use this much capital in pitching that you need a win,” Counsell said. “It’s awful to come out of a losing side of this when you spend that much capital, for sure.”

Which brings Milwaukee to its next crossroads. The Brewers will need some reinforcements, Counsell said, especially in their bullpen. But as if there needed to be yet another wrinkle, Triple-A San Antonio had a 13-inning game itself on Saturday.

Said Counsell: “There’s going to be some tired ballplayers tomorrow.”