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Yelich joins 40-30 club, stuns Cubs on walk-off

Reigning MVP swipes 3 bags, hits game-winning double in 9th
@AdamMcCalvy
September 8, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich made history on the basepaths before winning the game with the bat. Or as well-traveled teammate Gio Gonzalez put it, "It's the Christian Yelich show. Keep it coming." In a sequel to Friday -- when Yelich reached safely four times and hit a go-ahead, three-run homer

MILWAUKEE -- Christian Yelich made history on the basepaths before winning the game with the bat. Or as well-traveled teammate Gio Gonzalez put it, "It's the Christian Yelich show. Keep it coming."

In a sequel to Friday -- when Yelich reached safely four times and hit a go-ahead, three-run homer -- he reached safely five times, stole three bases to become the 10th player all-time to post a 40-30 season, and capped a historic night by hitting a walk-off double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Brewers' 3-2 win over the Cubs at sold-out Miller Park.

Box score

Milwaukee isn't done yet.

The win lifted the Brewers within three games of Chicago for the National League's second Wild Card berth with 21 games to play. Sunday's series finale represents the final head-to-head matchup between the teams in the regular season, with each side winning nine games so far.

"This was a really big game for us," Yelich said. "We needed that win, we need a win tomorrow. We're running out of head-to-head matchups with these guys. We're running out of games to play."

While Yelich is focused on the team goal, consider what he has done individually. A 40-30 season has only been accomplished 12 times in Major League history by 10 players including Yelich, who is the first to do it since his teammate Ryan Braun hit 41 home runs with 30 stolen bases in 2012.

The 40-40 club

There's enough season left for Yelich to make a run at more history. No player has ever had a 50-30 season.

"For me, walking away from that game, it's the best game I've ever seen Yelich have," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I know he didn't hit a home run today, but it was an absolutely spectacular game."

Every club's 30-30 season

After Yelich led the way Friday, and with Braun, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas all out of the lineup with injuries, it appeared clear for eight-plus innings that the Cubs were not going to let Yelich beat them again. He singled leading off the fourth inning but was walked in three other plate appearances on 13 total pitches.

So it was up to other Brewers hitters to make it a ballgame, and they did. Ben Gamel followed back-to-back two-out walks to Yelich and Eric Thames with an RBI single in the sixth inning, and Yasmani Grandal hit the first pitch in the bottom of the eighth for a home run and a 2-2 tie, after Josh Hader had walked home the go-ahead run in the top of the inning. Hader avoided further damage, then returned to work a scoreless ninth before Cubs shortstop Addison Russell's throwing error to lead off the bottom of the inning put the winning run on base and extended the inning for Yelich's opposite-field double off former Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler.

Kintzler went ahead in the count, 0-2, before Yelich fought back to win the game on a 2-2 sinker away. The winning double caromed off the left-field wall away from Kyle Schwarber.

"Yelich, it's like a [Barry] Bonds moment, for me," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "Those are good comparisons. I mean, I've seen 'Papi' [David Ortiz] more than I saw Bonds, but they're not missing. He's not missing his pitch. And not only that -- when it matters. Like, [Kintzler] made a really good pitch 1-2 down in the dirt and [Yelich] didn't even offer at it. He just stood there. He saw it all the way and then he puts that ball in play. He's had some pretty epic at-bats."

Which prompted the question: Did the Cubs do the right thing by giving Yelich something to hit?

Thames, another left-handed hitter, was on deck. Kintzler is tough on lefties. Yelich is tough on everyone; his 1.101 OPS and .441 weighted on-base average lead MLB.

"It definitely puts them in a tough spot," said Grandal, who struck out against Kintzler before Yelich stepped up. "Quite frankly, I thought a lefty was going to come in for me and Yeli, especially with Thames behind him. Right before I went out on the on-deck circle, I told Yeli, 'I'm pretty sure this guy is coming in for us.' Obviously that isn't how it happened."

Maddon said, "We got the two quick strikes. I felt actually pretty good about it right there. I know he's a good hitter and everything, but Kintzler was throwing the ball really well, and [Yelich] just hit it in the perfect spot. It's just unfortunate."

And Yelich?

"I don't think they're going to walk me and put the winning run at second," he said. "I didn't know if it was going to be one of those 'try and get you to expand' at-bats or where they're going to come after you. You just have to feel those ABs out and be ready for a mistake."

If he continues, Yelich has more milestones in sight. Baseball has never had a 50-30 man. And if the home runs dry up because teams start putting Yelich on base and giving him chances to run, the game has only seen four 40-40 players. The last was Alfonso Soriano in 2006.

"To think that nobody has really done what he's had the opportunity to do, it's a little crazy," Grandal said. "We're seeing something special. I think people take that for granted just because he's been so good. You just expect him to do it."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.