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Grandal, Thames go deep early off Max

Veteran catcher, Moose, trio of pitchers highlight Crew's free agents
@AdamMcCalvy and @JoeTrezz
October 2, 2019

WASHINGTON -- Yasmani Grandal punctuated one of the most productive seasons for a catcher in Brewers history with a two-run home run in the first inning of Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game. After a stunner of a 4-3 loss to the Nationals ended the Brewers’ season, Grandal suddenly was

WASHINGTON -- Yasmani Grandal punctuated one of the most productive seasons for a catcher in Brewers history with a two-run home run in the first inning of Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game.

After a stunner of a 4-3 loss to the Nationals ended the Brewers’ season, Grandal suddenly was faced with the question of whether he will be back. He is one of a number of impact players bound for free agency following the World Series, with third baseman Mike Moustakas and pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Lyles and Drew Pomeranz, among others, headed for the open market.

“It was a great year,” Grandal said. “It exceeded my expectations. Great group of guys -- not only players, but staff. I think these guys did a great job making me better, pretty much.”

Date Result Highlights
Oct. 1 WSH 4, MIL 3 Watch

The Brewers would say the feeling was mutual, which was clear seven pitches into the game, when Grandal put Milwaukee ahead with a two-run home run to right against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. Eric Thames followed with a solo homer in the top of the second to give the Brewers a 3-0 advantage.

“Our right-handers have done a real nice job of being aggressive, but it’s our lefties that have done the damage,” said Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell during an in-game interview on TBS. “Yaz being aggressive, it’s a good plan against a guy like Max Scherzer.”

The year of the home run didn’t take long to make its presence felt in the postseason, and October’s first two were notable for several reasons. Grandal entered play 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts lifetime against Scherzer; he reversed that by connecting on Scherzer’s 98.3 mph first-pitch fastball -- the hardest pitch he’d ever homered off of.

Thames’ 411-foot shot to right-center then continued what was a concerning trend for Scherzer as he slogged through an injury-plagued second half. Left-handed hitters slugged .635 with eight homers in 104 plate appearances off Scherzer after the All-Star break. He was also scored upon more in the first inning than any of the next five frames in 2019.

For Grandal, the postseason homer came after a regular season in which he hit a career-high 28. Twenty-five came at catcher -- the most in Brewers franchise history. Milwaukee was one of many teams to set a franchise record for homers this season, with 250.

Then there was Grandal's impact on a Brewers pitching staff that posted the best September ERA in baseball, and kept the team competitive after a right knee injury ended Christian Yelich’s season. Grandal shares the credit for that.

“These guys were all open ears, and so was I,” he said. “This was a group of guys that, even when you think they’re against a wall, they’re all having fun, laughing, joking around, and it seems to carry onto the field. I don’t think I ever smiled as much as I smiled this year on a baseball field, possibly in my whole career. The fact they were able to get me to do that, it was amazing. That’s why I liked it so much.”

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

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.