BIZARRE inside-the-park HR for Yelich

August 7th, 2020

was looking for something, anything, to snap his early-season slump. Maybe Thursday’s unexpected sprint around the bases was just the thing.

The Brewers slugger hit one of the strangest home runs you’ll see, an inside-the-parker that looked like a relatively lazy fly ball off the bat but turned into a mad dash around the bases -- and the spark that sent the Brewers to an 8-3 win over the White Sox.

"That's probably the luckiest home run in baseball history, definitely top three. I needed that one,” Yelich said. “It's been an absolute zoo. I've been awful all year."

The night began with Yelich in a deep slump, with three hits and 16 strikeouts in 34 regular-season at-bats, and coming off a “mental break” ordered by Brewers manager Craig Counsell. It ended with Yelich becoming the first player in franchise history to hit a home run and walk at least four times in the same game. It was the 74th performance of that ilk in a nine-inning game in baseball history, putting Yelich on a list with the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and the only other player to do it for a Milwaukee team, 1964 Brave Eddie Mathews.

It’s safe to say none of those other players hit home runs that looked like the one Yelich hit Thursday. It was a moment made for 2020.

“It fits, right?” Counsell said.

After taking four-pitch walks in each of his first two plate appearances against Chicago starter (and former Brewers teammate) Gio González, Yelich batted in the fifth with one out and the Brewers in a 2-1 deficit. Yelich lifted a high fly ball down the left field line and jogged to first base as Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez gave chase.

But Jiménez took an awkward route and whiffed on the ball before tumbling into the netting that hangs between the field and the seats. While Jiménez tried to escape, Yelich motored around the bases, and scored relatively easily with his second home run this season. It was the 30th inside-the-park home run in franchise history, and the Brewers’ first since Ben Gamel’s against the Mariners last June.

"Was it a tough play for [Jiménez]? Yes,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “Could it have been made? Should it have been made? It’s possible. But he did everything he could to kind of corral it.”

It was Yelich’s second run of the night -- he scored with a nifty slide around catcher Yasmani Grandal on ’s single back in the third inning -- and the first of the Brewers’ two home runs in the inning. After Avisaíl García followed Yelich’s unconventional home run with a walk, Gyorko hit his first homer in a Brewers uniform for a 4-2 lead that grew to 5-2 before the inning was over.

The Brewers tacked on three more runs in the eighth to seal ’s first Major League victory since 2013, with Yelich once again taking a walk and scoring a run. He batted again in the ninth with a chance to make history alongside 2018 Texas Ranger Rougned Odor, the only player in history to walk five times and hit a home run in a nine-inning game. But Yelich struck out.

In all, Yelich saw 29 pitches in six plate appearances.

“It was nice to be able to differentiate balls and strikes again instead of just blindly waving at things and hoping they throw something off your bat,” he said. “I was kind of feeling like I could control the at-bat a little bit better and had somewhat of a say of how it went. Getting closer to being back to where I usually am.”

He was in a self-deprecating kind of mood. When asked how he spent his manager-mandated day off on Wednesday, Yelich quipped, “I think it was a day off for 'Couns' so he didn't have to watch that anymore. He got a day off.”

Counsell and Yelich had a heart-to-heart on Wednesday, and Yelich continued to consult with hitting coaches Andy Haines and Jacob Cruz. But there were no clear answers as to whether the problem was mental, mechanical or both.

What did Yelich think it was?

“Everything,” he said. “I mean, it's been awful. There's only one word to describe it, and it's awful. This happens, though. You go through these stretches and it's not a great feeling by any means, but it's part of the game. I was kind of lucky to avoid this stuff for a few years, but it happens if you play long enough, and it's going to happen again, unfortunately. When you're going through it, it feels like the game is impossible. Then it turns one day back to normal. You just don't know when that's going to be.”

Said Counsell: “That’s probably the most confusing part of it for fans, ‘Why can’t he fix it?’ It’s hard. That’s why it’s hard.”

“I’m sure he’s frustrated, but you can’t tell,” Gyorko said. “This happens in the middle of the season when you’re playing 162 games, people probably don’t talk about it too much. But it being the start of the season when the numbers look back up on the scoreboard, people kind of panic. He’s Christian Yelich. He’ll be fine.”