Yelich ends HR drought before Brewers walk off 

August 17th, 2022

MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich snapped an 0-for-26 slump and the longest power drought of his five seasons with the Brewers with one big swing, but it took extra innings (and a little small ball) to down the mighty Dodgers.

Yelich smashed a 451-foot home run in the fifth inning and Victor Caratini blooped a two-run single in the bottom of the 11th, giving the Brewers a walk-off, 5-4 win Tuesday night at American Family Field in Milwaukee’s fifth extra-inning contest in the past 11 games. Nothing is coming easy for the Brewers these days, not during a recent slide that saw them fall into second place in the National League Central, and not now during a stretch in which 10 of 13 games are against division leaders St. Louis and Los Angeles.

“It’s a big stretch in our season just to be able to win as many as we can,” Yelich said. “[The Dodgers] are obviously a great team so if you beat them, you earn it. There’s not going to be any gimmies with those guys so we have to do a lot of things right.”

Willy Adames also went deep on Tuesday for the Brewers, who gained a game in the NL Wild Card race -- they trail the Padres by one game for the final postseason berth -- and remained two games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central.

“I mean, it’s going to let us know pretty quick where we are as a team,” said Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff of this stretch against the Dodgers. “Great team. But we’re also a good team and we fight.”

The Brewers' fight included Yelich’s first homer in this ballpark since way back on May 5, and his first home run anywhere since July 2 at Pittsburgh. A stretch of 142 homerless plate appearances followed, capped by 26 hitless at-bats over parts of eight games before Yelich connected in the fifth inning on Tuesday against Dodgers rookie right-hander Ryan Pepiot.

That gave the Brewers a 3-2 lead, but Chris Taylor’s home run off Matt Bush in the seventh knotted the game again at 3-3 and Taylor’s diving catch in center field denied Andrew McCutchen a walk-off hit with two outs in the 10th, bringing shades of Taylor’s catch to rob Yelich in Game 7 of the 2018 NL Championship Series in this ballpark.

This guy,” Yelich said went through his head. “Come on.”

“It’s like, ‘Man, they just don’t want to let us win,’” said Woodruff, another holdover from ‘18.

Said right fielder Hunter Renfroe: “It’s like a weight gets lifted off of them and we get crumbled by a rock.”

Unlike that game, this one didn’t end in disappointment for the Brewers, thanks in no small part to Renfroe. Justin Turner’s single off Brent Suter gave L.A. a one-run lead in the 11th before the Brewers rallied in the bottom of the inning. Renfroe led off against closer Craig Kimbrel with the rarest of baseball plays these days -- a bunt -- and reached safely with his first career bunt hit. Luis Urías worked a one-out walk to load the bases for Caratini’s soft single to right-center field, which hung up long enough to allow Renfroe to score behind Andrew McCutchen for the win.

“Probably gambling a little bit,” said Renfroe of his early break. 

He knew the Dodgers had the infield in, so the second baseman wouldn’t have a chance. Right fielder Mookie Betts has a great arm but Renfroe went for it anyway. 

“I was playing aggressive baseball,” he said. “I was going to end the game one way or another. Hopefully it got down and it got down and we won.”

As for the bunt: Was that from the bench or Renfroe on his own?

“That’s Hunter just having a feel against the pitcher,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. 

“Great job by Hunter on surprising the whole stadium,” Yelich said. 

It surprised even the Brewers dugout, according to Caratini. 

“Yeah, everybody,” he said.

“It’s one of those things I don’t do very often because I think I can do a pretty good job hitting the ball,” Renfroe said. “But tonight, I know we don’t have a whole lot of hits; we needed one run to tie the ballgame up and give it back to our bullpen. I was trying to do the best I could with what the game gave me.”

The teams will play another ballgame on Wednesday night.  

“They’re a tough team to beat,” Yelich said. “We played a good game tonight and you have to play like that to beat them.”