MILWAUKEE -- Here's one way the Brewers can overcome skepticism about their pitching staff: Hit a bunch of home runs.
It helps when the pitchers themselves can swing the bat a little.
Jhoulys Chacín became the first Brewers pitcher to homer on Opening Day, helping his own cause with a solo shot in the fifth that followed big flies from usual suspects Mike Moustakas and Christian Yelich, and giving Milwaukee the insurance run it needed in a 5-4 win over the Cardinals on Thursday at sold-out Miller Park.
Chacin’s shot marked the 23rd time since 1908 that a pitcher homered on Opening Day. He joined Madison Bumgarner (twice in 2017) and Clayton Kershaw (‘13) as active pitchers to accomplish the feat. While Chacin is the first Brewers pitcher to pull off the feat, he is the second Milwaukee pitcher overall, joining Hall of Famer Warren Spahn, who went deep in the 1960 opener for the Milwaukee Braves.
It was Chacin's second career homer; he hit one in 2013 when he was with the Rockies. Brewers pitchers hit a pair of home runs last season: Brent Suter off the Indians’ Corey Kluber on May 8, and Brandon Woodruff against the Pirates’ Nick Kingham on July 13. Woodruff also homered off Kershaw in the National League Championship Series.
Chacin’s home run helped erase some of the damage the Cards did against him in the second inning, when Kolten Wong and Harrison Bader hit consecutive fastballs for home runs to establish a 3-0 St. Louis lead. Chacin surrendered only one other hit while fanning seven in 5 1/3 innings.
“You didn’t really draw that one up the way it [happened],” Moustakas said. “But it was awesome to see him hit a homer. It ended up being the game winner. Every one counts.”
It turns out that Chacin called his shot.
“We had a talk about that in Spring Training,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. “Pitcher offense is part of our meetings. He was adamant that he could hit a home run, and he made sure he told me on his way back into the dugout today.”
Said Chacin: “The less you're thinking, the more it might happen.”