Yelich ends Ueck impression, crushes 1st HR

July 25th, 2020

For everything that is different in 2020, some things are the same.

can still mash.

Yelich, healthy again after missing the final three weeks of 2019 with a fractured right kneecap, but coming off a quiet Summer Camp and 0-for-7 to start the regular season, smashed his first '20 home run to help send the Brewers to an 8-3 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

On the heels of Friday’s shutout loss in which Orlando Arcia’s three singles accounted for all of the Brewers’ offense, every batter except Arcia tallied at least one base knock Saturday as part of an 11-hit attack. Justin Smoak hit his first home run in a Milwaukee uniform, Ben Gamel delivered a two-run triple and Lorenzo Cain tallied three hits, two runs scored and one brilliant baserunning decision, but it was arguably Yelich’s two-run big fly in the sixth that changed the trajectory of a game that at times got chippy.

“Huge homer by him,” said Cain. “There was a lot of chirping going on out there today. The boys are fired up. Big homers, big hits by everybody.”

With the Brewers’ lead having just slimmed to 4-3 on Kyle Schwarber’s two-run homer in the fifth, Brewers leadoff man Eric Sogard worked a two-out walk from Cubs left-hander Brad Wieck in the sixth to extend the inning for Yelich. The lanky slugger got all of a fastball and sent it 109.6 mph off the bat, according to Statcast, and 425 feet to center field to make the lead 6-3.

It was Yelich’s second home run of the week, but the first one that counted. He also homered in Wednesday’s exhibition game against the White Sox, shrugging off what had been a quiet showing in the Brewers’ seven-game intrasquad series at Miller Park. Yelich had gone 2-for-23 with 12 strikeouts against the Brewers’ own pitchers.

Yelich took it with good humor.

“I wasn't struggling,” Yelich said on the eve of Opening Day. “I was just doing my best Bob Uecker impression.”

Yelich picked a good time to square one up. With the lead back to three runs, and then to five runs an inning later when Omar Narváez and Cain delivered successive RBI hits, Brewers manager Craig Counsell felt more comfortable stretching Brent Suter’s outing in relief of starter Corbin Burnes, then deploying Devin Williams, David Phelps and Eric Yardley to finish the game without stirring closer Josh Hader. Thus, the Crew will be well-armed going into Sunday’s series finale against a division rival with whom it expects to tangle all the way to the finish.

“We had a bunch of big hits, but the Schwarber homer made it a one-run game so that was a big spot [for Yelich],” Counsell said. “That gave us some breathing room and some flexibility with Brent to try to push him for another inning. There were a bunch of big spots today, and that was definitely one of them.”

Saturday’s home run was Yelich’s only appearance on the basepaths, and he didn’t play the field because he was the Brewers’ designated hitter. But he made one other notable appearance on the field at the end of the third inning, hopping the dugout fence when Crew and Cubs players jawed in the wake of a Willson Contreras strikeout. The chatter began, Burnes said, from the opening inning, as both he and Chicago starter Yu Darvish struggled to hone the movement of their pitches. By day’s end, Narváez was hit by pitches twice, and Contreras and Javier Báez once apiece.

Tempers were cooled, and Counsell chalked it up as an unintended consequence of the odd surroundings in 2020. Without fans in the stands, Counsell said, nothing goes unheard on the field.

"I think this is going to be part of this season,” Counsell said. “I mean, the dugouts can hear each other, and umpires can hear everything. There's talking that goes on in a game; you never hear it with all the fans here.

"It's part of the game. It's competitiveness, that's all it is."

Up next
“Fastball Freddy” Peralta has a new five-year contract and a new pitch, a slider which he honed in winter ball and will break out against the Cubs in Sunday's series finale at Wrigley Field. Chicago starter Tyler Chatwood's first pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT, live on MLB.TV.