Yelich HR sets up Hiura's walk-off blast in 10th

Brewers battle back against Cubs closer Kimbrel

July 28th, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- Saturday marked Milwaukee’s first look at in a Cubs uniform, and Kimbrel’s first look at Brewers hitting savant . The rookie provided the veteran closer with quite an introduction.

After just missing a home run in the sixth inning, Hiura hit a game-tying double in the eighth before connecting on a Kimbrel curveball in the 10th for a walk-off two-run homer. It capped a comeback that began with 's 36th homer and gave the Brewers a 5-3 win over the Cubs in a second straight late-inning thriller at Miller Park.

“He’s got the hitting gift, he really does,” Yelich said.

Albert Almora Jr. briefly put the Cubs on top with a home run leading off the top of the 10th before Yelich answered to start the bottom of the frame. Two batters later, Hiura delivered the Brewers’ first walk-off home run this season and the first walk-off hit of his promising career.

With an eighth victory in their last 11 games, the Brewers moved into a virtual tie with the Cubs for second place in the National League Central. Both teams trail the Cardinals by one game.

“Just put him on base,” Brewers starter Chase Anderson said of Hiura. “I was giving [Ryan] Braun a hard time in the training room, saying, ‘Brauny, you can retire now. We’ve got a right-handed power bat back in the lineup.’”

Hiura put all of his offensive skills on display in three at-bats Saturday:

Bottom 10th inning
3-3 score, no outs, runner on first
Kimbrel pitching

“He’s a tremendous pitcher as he’s proven throughout his career,” Hiura said. “Once the Cubs signed him, we knew that we were going to get a lot of him.”

Hiura said he watched video of Kimbrel in advance of the series to get a feel for facing one of the most effective closers of all time. Kimbrel was already in trouble, having yielded Yelich’s opposite-field homer leading off the inning before a walk to Tyler Saladino. But after missing with a breaking ball, he got consecutive swings and misses from Hiura on fastballs. Kimbrel opted to throw another curveball, and Hiura hit it out the opposite way to end the game.

“Keston’s ball was an absolute laser,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “You don’t see a breaking ball hit like that. It shows you how special he is. I thought it was over [Jason] Heyward’s head, but I did not think homer. I think it surprised everybody in the park, really, for a while. I think it surprised people.”

Eighth inning
2-1 Cubs, two outs, runner at third
Tyler Chatwood pitching

Just like Friday’s series opener, the win was as uplifting for the Brewers as it was crushing for the Cubs, who had a lead in the eighth inning with four outs to go for a second straight night. Chatwood was the third of four Cubs relievers employed in relief of Jon Lester in the eighth, which began with Friday hero hitting a home run to halve Chicago’s lead.

Lorenzo Cain followed with a double and was at third with one out when Chatwood came in and retired Braun on a popout that froze Cain in place. But Hiura followed by fighting off a 97.2 mph fastball for a bouncing double inside first base to tie the game at 2.

“That inning, Gamel led off with a home run that definitely started that momentum,” Hiura said. “You could feel the shift of energy and hype in that dugout we were in. I think it just fed off of everyone.”

Hiura is the fourth Brewers rookie to hit safely in at least 15 consecutive games, and the first since Norichika Aoki’s 15-gamer in 2002. The franchise rookie record is 1992 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner Pat Listach’s 17-game streak.

Sixth inning
2-0 Cubs, two outs, runner at first
Lester pitching

Hiura can pull a curveball with the best of them, too. He got one he could handle from Lester and hit it high and far to left field, complete with Statcast readings: 106.6 mph exit velocity, 32-degree launch angle and 420 feet projected distance. When third-base umpire Adrian Johnson started swirling his right finger in the air, the Cubs, Brewers and 43,931 fans had themselves a tie ballgame. There was only one problem: It was a foul ball.

Cubs players noticed the mistake at once and protested to the umpires, who gathered and rather quickly came up with the right call. Lester recovered to retire Hiura on an inning-ending strikeout.

“It was foul. 100 percent foul,” Counsell said. “It was easy to see from where we were sitting. We had a pretty good view of that. You’re not going to steal one with replay.”

So Hiura found other ways to do damage.

And the Brewers found a way to pull out another comeback win.

“That just shows you that the game’s never over until the final out,” Hiura said “This team is capable of putting that pressure on late in games and come up big.”

Added Yelich: “It’s no secret, we really needed those [wins], and it’s nice to be able to find a way. It’s a credit to our guys; nobody has given up, nobody has quit. We haven’t had the smoothest of sailing, that’s pretty well-documented. But we still have a long way to go and nobody’s quitting, and we found a way to pull two of those out and they are great team wins.”