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Grandal breaks HR record for Brewers catchers

Moustakas (bone bruise) in too much pain to swing bat
@AdamMcCalvy
September 8, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- It was an uncanny coincidence that the brother of former Brewers catcher Dave Nilsson happened to be visiting Miller Park on Saturday when current Brewers catcher, Yasmani Grandal, broke a 20-year-old franchise record. Ron Nilsson, on holiday from Australia, saw Grandal hit a game-tying home run to lead

MILWAUKEE -- It was an uncanny coincidence that the brother of former Brewers catcher Dave Nilsson happened to be visiting Miller Park on Saturday when current Brewers catcher, Yasmani Grandal, broke a 20-year-old franchise record.

Ron Nilsson, on holiday from Australia, saw Grandal hit a game-tying home run to lead off the eighth inning of an eventual 3-2 Brewers win. It was Grandal’s 25th home run overall this season and his 22nd while playing at catcher, which broke a franchise record that Dave Nilsson set as a National League All-Star in 1999.

“Just a byproduct of doing your homework,” Grandal said of his first-pitch blast off Cubs right-hander David Phelps. “That’s why I watch so much video. So in a situation like that, I can take a chance at tying the game.”

Grandal homered in each of the first three games of Milwaukee’s four-game series against the Cubs, giving him six home runs in his last 10 games entering Sunday’s series finale. Grandal hit one homer in the 40 games prior to that stretch.

But it didn’t feel like a slump, said the switch-hitting free agent-to-be.

“I feel like I’ve been pretty locked in at least 75 percent of the season,” said Grandal. “Obviously, I haven’t slugged as much as I would have liked to, especially since the beginning of the second half. When we’re talking about feeling locked in, it’s also being on base. For me, I value being on base a lot. As long as I’m on base and give my team a chance to win the game, that’s it. That’s all I care about.”

Grandal’s .378 on-base percentage through Saturday trailed only Christian Yelich among the Brewers’ regulars. His 4.7 wins above replacement trails only the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto among MLB’s regular catchers.

The Brewers will have to make a decision this winter about the future of their catching corps. Grandal, who came to Milwaukee on a one-year, $18.25 million contract after being dissatisfied with multi-year offers available, will be a free agent again. Manny Piña has a $1.85 million club option for 2020. Catching prospect Jacob Nottingham has made big strides defensively but had a disappointing year at the plate at Triple-A San Antonio in 2019.

Whatever happens next year, Grandal got the attention of Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who spent most of his postgame scrum Saturday answering questions about Yelich’s walk-off double.

“It's pretty solid, man. How about Grandal, too? Both of them,” Maddon said. “We had that set up for [Phelps to [Derek] Holland to [Rowan Wick], and I was trying to get a four-out save out of Wick right there. And they just foiled that opportunity. Grandal's also swinging the bat like I've never seen him, either.”

Moustakas still can’t swing bat

A frustrated Mike Moustakas offered his most extensive comments Sunday morning about the bone bruise in his left hand and wrist that essentially sidelined him for the past week. Bottom line: He is in too much pain to capably swing the bat.

“The reality is I couldn’t go out there right now and hit,” Moustakas said.

An anti-inflammatory injection on Wednesday did help, said Moustakas, who is considered one of the Brewers’ toughest players. He played much of this season with a fracture at the tip of his right ring finger.

Moustakas did appear in the field during Saturday’s win but was replaced when it was his turn at the plate. Manager Craig Counsell characterized the move as buying time before he deployed his only fully healthy infielder on the bench, which on Saturday was Hernán Pérez.

“The training staff has been doing a great job of doing what they can to get me ready to go,” Moustakas said. “Obviously, it’s been a grind. … I can hit flips, I can hit [batting practice], and there’s still pain there, but that’s not what’s concerning. What’s concerning is I’m in a game and I swing and miss, or I check-swing and have to hold my bat. When I’m in an at-bat facing a Major League pitcher, you don’t want to be thinking about how bad your hand hurts when you’re trying to hit. You want to have a clear mind and be able to go out there and compete. I just wasn’t able to do that the last week or so.”

The same situation occurred during Sunday's 8-5 win over the Cubs, as Counsell put Moustakas in as a defensive replacement when Orlando Arcia exited the game in the top of the fourth. But when Moustakas was due up at the plate in the ensuing frame, pinch hitter David Freitas took his place.

Last call

• Second baseman Keston Hiura did some light running on the field Sunday for the first time since he strained his left hamstring at Wrigley Field on Aug. 30. He has a chance to return to action at about the two-week mark.

• Right-hander Brandon Woodruff simulated two innings in his latest bullpen session Sunday as he works back from a left oblique strain. Assuming no setbacks, Woodruff will face hitters later this week in Miami. After that, he might continue his comeback by pitching short bursts in games. That’s to be determined, Counsell said.

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