PHILADELPHIA -- Earlier this week, the Phillies’ approach to the Brewers’ lineup was pretty obvious: don’t let Christian Yelich beat us.
Who could blame them? The reigning National League Most Valuable Player has been tearing up opposing pitching all season, showing no signs of letting up.
Yelich was intentionally walked twice in the series opener, and although he drove in only one run during the first three games, his .467 on-base percentage was giving his teammates behind him in the lineup plenty of chances to come through with a big hit.
“Trust in your teammates,” Yelich said. “The goal of the game is to get on base, so if you get on base any way, it’s helping the team. I trust the guys behind me to do some damage and keep the line moving.”
“My biggest contribution today, I had a stern talking-to with Yeli before the game,” Braun said. “He needed a talk from his big brother; I said, ‘It’s time, man. You need to bring that swag you have at home to the road.’”
Yelich’s home/road splits were hard to process. At Miller Park, he had hit 15 home runs with 32 RBIs and an eye-popping 1.665 OPS in 19 games. In 21 road games, Yelich had one homer, six RBIs and a mortal .748 OPS.
That changed Thursday. Yelich blasted a solo home run in his first at-bat, then added another in the eighth, his third multi-homer game of the season.
“They pitched around him the first day, but Ryan swinging the bat so well definitely impacted today,” manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s locked in, swinging the bat really well and they don’t want to face him, as well. That’s really helping Yeli.”
With a dozen games still left on the schedule this month, Yelich’s MLB-leading 18 home runs are already more than any Brewers player has hit before the end of May since 2007, when Prince Fielder had 19 as the calendar flipped to June.
Yelich downplayed whatever Braun said to him before the game, sticking to what sounded like a very basic script as he was asked about his performance following the game.
“It’s just Ryan being Ryan,” Yelich said. “Try to hit the ball hard and good things happen.”
Good things have certainly happened to Yelich during his first two seasons with the Brewers. In 106 games since last summer’s All-Star break, Yelich has hit 43 home runs with 107 RBIs.
“I’ve never seen anybody this good for this long,” Braun said. “If you go back go the second half last year, we’re looking at four or five months of him just being unconscious at the plate. It’s really special. It’s incredibly hard to do; he’s making something that’s incredibly challenging look extremely easy -- and he’s doing it on a day in, day out basis. It’s fun for us to watch, fun to be a part of, and obviously we reap the benefits as a team.”
“He’s picked up where he left off,” Counsell said. “This is who he is.”