MILWAUKEE -- The Cardinals struck first. The Brewers struck last.
And it was history at Miller Park on Tuesday night.
In the first contest in Major League history that started and ended with back-to-back home runs, William Fowler and Tommy Pham went deep for the Cardinals within the game's first three pitches, only to be answered by Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Yelich, down to his final strike, tied it with his first Brewers home run before Braun smashed the next Dominic Leone pitch into the home bullpen for a stunning 5-4 win.
"I still had my batting gloves on," said Yelich. "I was down below, and I heard him hit it and saw the ball just flying into left-center. There was no way he just did that. What a way to end the game."
Said Braun of the history-making moment: "I'm just glad we were on the finishing end of that accomplishment. You want to be on the back end, not the front end. Pretty special win for us tonight. We were down 4-0, and it felt like 7-0 or 8-0 the way it was going."
Fowler and Pham's quick strike came at the expense of Brewers starter Chase Anderson, who delivered six scoreless innings on Opening Day in San Diego but found immediate trouble against the Cards. Fowler hit the first pitch over the fence. Pham went deep two pitches later, and Marcell Ozuna opened the lead to 4-0 with a booming, two-run home run in the third.
While Milwaukee relievers Jeremy Jeffress, Jacob Barnes, Matt Albers and Dan Jennings held the Cardinals scoreless on two hits after the fourth inning, Yelich led a comeback. His first hit at home in a Brewers uniform was an RBI single in the fifth inning that put the Brewers on the board against rookie Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty. Yelich led off the eighth inning with a double, sparking a two-run rally that pulled the Brewers within a run and helped turn over the lineup for the winning barrage in the ninth.
"I think our bullpen deserves a ton of credit for holding them there," Braun said. "It's a really explosive offense on the other side. So for us to just continue to keep the game close, give us an opportunity. … A lot of guys obviously had great at-bats in the eighth, and then to find a way in the ninth was great."
The Brewers were 1-57 when trailing after eight innings last season. They are 2-1 through five games of 2018 thanks largely to Braun, who also hit a go-ahead home run to finish a five-run rally in the ninth inning of Friday's win in San Diego.
On Tuesday, he improved to 4-for-4 with three home runs and seven RBIs lifetime against Leone, who was trying to notch the Cardinals' first save while their recently signed closer, Greg Holland, tunes up in Minor League games.
"You see the strangest things in this game," said Fowler. "That's why you keep playing it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Back in it: The Brewers might not have gotten to Yelich and Braun in the ninth had they not sent seven men to the plate in the eighth, including a trio of left-handers who managed hits against Cardinals lefty Tyler Lyons. Yelich's double set it up, and Travis Shaw and Eric Thames chased Lyons from the game with consecutive one-out singles -- Shaw's for an RBI. On came Leone, who struck out Manny Pina but couldn't retire Jonathan Villar, who delivered his second two-out hit with a runner in scoring position, cutting the deficit to 4-3.
"Once we scored two in the eighth, I thought we had the right guys coming up in the ninth," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We had [pinch-hitter Eric] Sogard leading off against Leone and then the top of the order. … Braun's had some success against Leone, too, so you figure if we can get him up, we've got a chance. That eighth inning was big."
Ozuna goes way deep: Ozuna's first home run in a Cardinals uniform was a jaw-dropper. According to Statcast™, it was both the hardest hit (117.2 mph off the bat) and longest (projected 479 feet) by a St. Louis batter since the tracking system debuted in 2015. It fell a foot shy of the record for the longest home run in 18 seasons at Miller Park -- Russell Branyan's 480-footer off the Cubs' Greg Maddux on July 27, 2004. Anderson was charged with four earned runs on eight hits in four innings, with five strikeouts. The three Cardinals homers matched Anderson's career high.
"I really didn't have much today," said Anderson, who has noticed his fastball velocity is down a tick but insisted he is not concerned this early in the season. "I didn't have any fastball command at all. I think the highlight today was definitely the bullpen holding it down right there, keeping it within striking distance, and then our offense came through at the very end. It was fun to walk off."
"We told him to hit homers at the end of the game. It's a new strategy we've got this year." -- Counsell on Braun, who is just 3-for-17 to start the season but has won two games with ninth-inning homers
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The last time the Cardinals led off a road game with back-to-back home runs, Sandy Koufax was a 22-year-old still finding his footing in the big leagues. Koufax started the first game of a doubleheader in Los Angeles on Aug. 17, 1958, when the Cardinals' Curt Flood and Gene Freese went deep against the Dodgers.
Domingo Santana, the odd man out in the Brewers' crowded outfield for the first two home games of the season. will be back in right field when the series concludes Wednesday night at 6:40 CT. It will mark the home debut of right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who inked a two-year free-agent deal with the Brewers in December and surrendered four earned runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings in his first start of the season in San Diego.
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