WASHINGTON -- Christian Yelich kept hitting, and the Brewers rode another series victory to the top of the National League Wild Card standings.Yelich capped a monster road trip by hitting his first career grand slam on Sunday, part of a seven-run fifth inning that sent the Brewers to a 9-4
WASHINGTON -- Christian Yelich kept hitting, and the Brewers rode another series victory to the top of the National League Wild Card standings.
Yelich capped a monster road trip by hitting his first career grand slam on Sunday, part of a seven-run fifth inning that sent the Brewers to a 9-4 win at Nationals Park and a fourth consecutive series triumph.
Keon Broxton hit a booming, three-run home run earlier in the decisive rally that gave the Brewers a ninth win in their last 13 games. The Brewers remained five games behind the Cubs in the National League Central but bumped back to the top of the Wild Card chase over the Cardinals, who lost in extra innings to the Reds on Sunday and sit in the second Wild Card spot, one-half game behind Milwaukee.
The next 10 days will be big for the Brewers, as they play six of their next nine games against Chicago beginning with a Labor Day matinee at Miller Park.
"We had some long games on this [trip], but we played well and we were able to win both series. That's what we need to keep doing," Yelich said. "Win the series. That's the biggest thing. We had every kind of game you could have here -- some rain, some extra-inning ones in Cincy. But overall, it was a good trip."
The way he swung the bat in Cincinnati and Washington, D.C., one wondered whether Yelich regretted heading home. He went 12-for-27 with 14 RBIs on the six-game trip, including his first career multi-homer game on Tuesday, his first six-hit game and first cycle on Wednesday, and his first career slam in Sunday's finale.
It was the 27th home run of the season for Yelich, who has powered his way into the NL MVP debate with 16 homers in 40 games since the All-Star break. He even went deep over the break, homering in a losing effort for the NL at Nationals Park.
"Look, he's clearly taken a jump in his offensive play," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "His second half has been something to behold. Now the home runs are coming at a pretty good pace, and he's having moments -- especially on this road trip -- where he's doing superhuman things, really cool things, he-didn't-just-do-that things. Man, he's doing a lot for us."
Broxton, who'd bounced out with the bases loaded to end the third inning before the Nationals claimed a 4-2 lead against struggling Brewers starter Junior Guerra, connected against Nationals starter Jefry Rodriguez to reclaim the lead in the fifth before Yelich padded it with a two-out slam off left-hander Tim Collins.
Those homers, followed by four scoreless innings of relief from Brandon Woodruff, helped the Brewers overcome another poor start for Guerra, who was charged with four earned runs on five hits in three innings to run his ERA up to 7.62 over his last nine starts. That stretch began with a July 13 start at Pittsburgh, after which Guerra briefly hit the 10-day disabled list with a forearm strain.
All four Nationals runs against Guerra scored with two outs, including Juan Soto's tying single followed by Mark Reynolds' go-ahead, two-run single in the third. But Counsell again argued that Guerra pitched better than his line suggested, pointing to an Adam Eaton single earlier in the inning off first baseman Eric Thames' glove.
The Brewers haven't set their starting pitching plan past the Cubs' series. With Giovany Gonzalez still awaiting his first assignment, it's unclear where Guerra fits.
"This trip was a good one for hitters. They hit a lot," said Guerra. "They definitely picked us up. We got the win -- that's what matters."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Broxton's bash: Broxton, called back to the big leagues when rosters expanded Saturday, got the start because hard-working center fielder Lorenzo Cain needed a day off, and Broxton was the best defender at the Brewers' disposal. In the end, his biggest contribution came with the bat, as Broxton connected with a Rodriguez pitch in the fifth and sent it a Statcast-projected 442 feet to center field for Broxton's third home run this season.
"It's huge, man," Broxton said. "Over the course of my time here, my clutch hits have not been as [frequent] as I want them to be. That's my movement going forward, to come up big when my team needs me, get the clutch hits and do the things that a team needs me to do. I had men on base all day today, and those are the times I'm talking about."
Woodruff shuts it down: Woodruff entered the game with the Brewers trailing but worked a walk amid the seven-run rally, then delivered three more scoreless innings and teamed with Xavier Cedeno and Corey Knebel to hold Washington scoreless the rest of the way. Woodruff's most important inning was the fifth, when he retired Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in order to deny the Nationals a bounce-back after the Brewers had taken the lead.
"This is Brandon Woodruff's game," Counsell said. "I know Yeli hits a [grand slam] home run and Brox hits a three-run homer, but to deliver four innings of scoreless relief in that situation is absolutely huge.
"It's really the inning after we scored those runs that he put the zero up that I thought settled the game down. I know we had a good lead at that point, but it felt like the energy got taken out of [the Nationals]. We've had several of these big innings, and one of the things that has happened is we've given up runs immediately following. It just gives back the other team something."
Don't ask us why, but with injured catcher Stephen Vogt delivering the lineup card, the Brewers are 5-0 in series finales after losing the previous 10 in a row. All five of those Vogt victories are day games, pushing the Brewers to a more palatable 23-31 under the sun.
HE SAID IT
"Guys don't do what [Yelich] is doing. His takes are impressive. Every ball that he puts in play is usually pretty hard. It's really impressive. I'm actually trying to mimic how he hits right now. He's really slow and calm. I've been trying to do that, and it's helping out a little bit." -- Broxton, who is known for making significant changes to his batting stance on the fly
Zach Davies is back for his first big league start since May 29, and it's in a huge game. Davies will be on the mound Monday afternoon for the Brewers' 1:10 p.m. CT Labor Day contest against the Cubs, the opener of a three-game set at Miller Park. Davies is coming back from a summer lost to shoulder and back ailments. Resurgent left-hander Cole Hamels starts for Chicago.
"It's the last month, so every game is going to be big for us," Davies said. "It is a big series against an in-division team that we're chasing. I like coming back and trying to beat the best of the best. You're going to have to play at the top of your game for the rest of September, and it's a good way to start that comeback."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.