Ain't life grand: Chourio blasts Crew's 3rd slam in past 4 games

Rookie's clutch homer highlights torrid stretch amid midseason turnaround

June 29th, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- Remember last week, when the Brewers were fighting through a stretch of futility with runners in scoring position? That seems like a long time ago.

Lately, they’re having a grand time.

hit his first career grand slam in Friday’s series-opening 4-2 win over the Cubs at American Family Field to continue a power-packed stretch for the National League Central-leading Brewers, who have hit a grand slam in two straight games, three of the first four games of this homestand and four of their past eight games overall.

That’s a lot of fours on the scoreboard. Of the last five Brewers hitters to dig into the batter’s box with the bases loaded, four have hit a grand slam.

Are they contagious?

“I hope so,” Chourio said.

If you’ve been scoring at home, you know the hitters range from Brice Turang last week in San Diego with his choked-up bat, to sluggers Rhys Hoskins on Monday and Jake Bauers on Wednesday against the Rangers, to Chourio in the fourth inning off Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon Friday night. The 20-year-old rookie’s blast also made him the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the big leagues since the Mets’ Jose Reyes smacked a slam for his first career home run on June 15, 2003 -- four days after his 20th birthday.

Chourio and Reyes are in rare company. Since 1974, only 14 players aged 20 or younger have hit a Major League grand slam. Before Chourio, the last 20-year-old to hit a grand slam was the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who launched two of them within an 11-day span in 2019.

Making Chourio’s feat even more unique was that his first career grand slam came in the game following his first career inside-the-park home run in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers. Over his past 21 games since June 2, a surging Chourio has a .328/.371/.563 slash line.

“All of my years of doing college baseball, you saw guys grow from year to year to year,” Brewers manager Pat Murphy said. “But you didn’t see it in the middle of the year because we only played 60 games. When you see it happen in the middle of the year, from where he was in Spring Training to where he is today, it’s like, ‘Wow. What possibilities.’”

It has been a team effort. The Brewers believed enough in his talent that they signed Chourio to a record-setting, eight-year contract for $82 million in December and then made him the youngest Milwaukee player since Robin Yount to make his Major League debut on Opening Day.

After a fast start, Chourio slipped into the sort of struggles one might expect from the youngest player in the league. In May, there was a stretch when his playing time waned and teammates had to remind him to trust his baseball instincts. Among those who have provided support are Brewers coach Néstor Corredor, assistant coach (and translator) Daniel de Mondesert and players like Willy Adames, William Contreras and Freddy Peralta.

“I told him the other day,” said Peralta, “‘Bro, you’re looking different lately. I can tell. If you miss one time or two times, it doesn’t matter. Just keep going because I can tell you look ready.’ It makes me feel good.”

Said Adames: “It’s all him. He’s mature for his age and he’s proving it to everybody. We all knew he was talented, he just had to adjust. This is not the Minor Leagues.”

Even Peralta, the pitcher, comes through with occasional hitting tips. That happened Friday after Taillon got Chourio to line out on a sweeper in the third inning. Peralta offered a reminder of that going into the next at-bat.

“A friend of mine told me he was going to try to get me out with the same pitch he [used] to get me out the time before,” Chourio said. “I was kind of ready for that pitch.”

Chourio took heed.

Just like his first at-bat, Chourio fell into an 0-2 count. But this time, he kept his at-bat alive by fouling off the next sweeper, then took a fastball for ball one. When Taillon came back with another sweeper, and left it in the strike zone, Chourio hit it just over the left-field wall.

“Every single day, I feel a little bit better,” Chourio said. “I know for a while there, things weren’t really going my way. But keeping the confidence, I knew my moment was going to come.”

Chourio -- in a small sample size -- has had a knack for coming through in those moments. Including Friday’s slam, he’s 3-for-5 with a walk, a home run and eight RBIs in his first seven career plate appearances with the bases loaded.

“I’m not surprised,” Adames said. “It’s just fun to watch what everybody was talking about.”