Yelich makes Brewers history with homer in loss

April 18th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Prior to Thursday night's National League Championship Series rematch, the NL's home run leaders paused for a quick chat and a friendly handshake.

Then they went to work.

Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich and Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger began the day tied for the league lead with nine home runs apiece. Bellinger briefly took the lead, hitting his 10th in the sixth inning Thursday off Brewers reliever Matt Albers, but Yelich pulled back to even in the ninth frame with a solo shot off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.

And while Bellinger had the last laugh, thanks to a 3-1 Dodgers victory, Yelich was able to take solace in the fact that his 27 RBIs this season not only lead all of baseball, but are the most ever produced by a Brewers player between March and April, the record previously held by Prince Fielder, with 26.

There are still 11 games left to play this month.

"He just continues to swing the bat really well," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's a challenge."

The proof is in the numbers. Along with sitting atop the home run and RBI leaderboards, Yelich came into the game ranked among the top five in overall WAR (9th, 1.3), offensive WAR (4th), slugging percentage (4th, .781) and OPS (5th, 1.229).

"It's crazy," said Brewers utility man Hernan Perez. "From last year until now, he's probably the best hitter in baseball."

It didn't look like it through the first few innings, as Yelich went 0-for-3 against Dodgers starter Julio Urias (1-1). Yelich, though, wasn't alone in his struggles; Milwaukee's offense managed only one hit off the 22-year-old left-hander, who struck out a career-high nine batters just six days after the Brewers tagged him for six runs over five innings in a loss at Dodger Stadium.

Urias didn't allow a hit until the fifth, when Orlando Arcia singled with two outs.

"He was ahead of almost every hitter," Perez said. "His slider was great tonight. His slider and fastball were the difference for him today.

The Dodgers' powerful lineup couldn't do much either against Brewers right-hander Zach Davies. He held the NL's top home-run hitting team to just three hits, but lasted only five innings thanks to Los Angeles' patient approach at the plate.

"They weren't too aggressive early and they tried to get into hitters' counts," said Davies, who held Los Angeles to a run over seven innings in his last start. "Their plan from the start was to get my pitch count up and get into favorable counts. They stuck to their approach."

He was at 97 pitches when Counsell sent Eric Thames to pinch-hit for him in the fifth. Matt Albers (1-1) took over in the sixth and retired Justin Turner on a bouncer to second to open the inning but left a 3-2 fastball over the plate for Bellinger, who crushed it to right-center, pulling ahead of Yelich momentarily, with his 10th homer of the season.

A.J. Pollock singled to left on Albers' very next offering and Max Muncy made it 3-0 when he homered on a 2-1 sinker that just didn't sink.

"I thought [Albers] made some good pitches to Turner, then some good pitches to Bellinger right up to the 3-2 count," Counsell said.

Yelich might have had a chance to tie the game in the eighth when Perez led off with a single and stole second. Lorenzo Cain singled to left with two out and Perez was waved home. But Alex Verdugo made a perfect throw to catcher Austin Barnes, who had plenty of time to apply the tag on Perez, ending the inning with Yelich waiting on deck.

"[Verdugo] made a great throw but that's probably one [third-base coach] Ed [Sedar] would like to have back," Counsell said.

Yelich instead led off the ninth against Kenley Jansen, whose 0-1 cutter caught just enough of the plate for the reigning NL MVP, who crushed it off the batter's eye beneath the scoreboard in center field.

"Coming in every day, you know something special could happen," Davies said. "I don't think at this point it even surprises us any more but it's fun to sit back and watch. I'm sure for him it's even more fun to do it."