MILWAUKEE -- The chants are sporadic now. If Rowdy Tellez has more moments like this one at American Family Field, he’s sure to hear his first name a whole lot louder.
The 6-foot-4 slugger, one of the hitters imported to Milwaukee last month to boost what had been a stagnant offense, came off the bench in the seventh inning and launched a go-ahead, three-run home run that powered a 4-2 Brewers win over the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon. You could hear it from the stands as he circled the bases: ROW-DY! ROW-DY!
“I think they just really like to chant his name,” said a smiling Devin Williams, who picked up his first career save filling in for Josh Hader. “I mean, it’s a fun one.”
Williams quickly added, “And, he’s been playing well.”
That’s an understatement. After a 1-for-12 start with the Brewers in sporadic at-bats over his first seven games following a trade from Toronto, Tellez has been a force, hitting .415 (17-for-41) with two doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs over his last 14 games with his new team.
When Brad Boxberger and Williams covered the final two innings without incident, Milwaukee maintained its 7 1/2-game lead on second-place Cincinnati in the National League Central standings and improved to 12-4 this season against last-place Pittsburgh, with one more three-game series between the teams next week at PNC Park.
First, the Brewers have to finish this homestand. Up next is a weekend series against the NL West-leading Giants, who own the NL’s best record.
More chances for the fans to chant for Tellez.
“I think one of the only other times I've had fans kind of chant was the debut game,” said Tellez, referring to his 2018 MLB debut in Toronto when he became the first player in the modern era to deliver extra-base hits in his first three career plate appearances, all just a couple of weeks after losing his mother to brain cancer. “There were a lot of emotions behind that for me. But it's so cool. Coming here, it's just been kind of a blessing. I have always wanted to be somewhere where -- you know, everybody wants to be somewhere where they can hear their name chanted and be wanted.”
That was the case from the moment the Brewers acquired him from the Blue Jays for reliever Trevor Richards and Minor Leaguer Bowden Francis on July 6. While Tellez was on the phone with Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns, he got a text from Wednesday’s winning pitcher, reliever Brent Suter, welcoming him to the team and offering assistance getting moved.
It was already a good trade for Tellez from a playing time perspective; he was blocked at first in Toronto by All-Star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Now it was a comfortable transition, too.
“I was like, ‘OK, I'm wanted here, I'm welcome here,’” Tellez said. “I got into the clubhouse early when we were in New York, ‘Murph’ [bench coach Pat Murphy] made some jokes. This is like home. This is like I've been here for a while.”
Tellez was available off the bench on Wednesday because another Brewers newcomer, Eduardo Escobar, got the start at first base with Pirates left-hander Steven Brault on the mound. The Brewers entered the seventh in a 2-1 deficit, but Luis Urías took a two-out walk and Manny Piña singled off the third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes’ glove to extend the inning, which brought Tellez up against left-hander Chasen Shreve.
Tellez got down in the count, 0-2, worked it to even and battled to a seventh pitch. Shreve then grooved a fastball, which Tellez hit a Statcast-projected 423 feet into the right-field bleachers. It was the latest example of Tellez making a strong impact.
“He really has,” manager Craig Counsell said. “When [Daniel] Vogelbach went down, Jace [Peterson] did a great job for a little while there, but Rowdy's presence as a power presence in the lineup is something that's impactful. We felt it today, we felt it in the White Sox series. It changes the game with one swing of the bat.”
Tellez and the Brewers also spared starter Freddy Peralta a loss on a day the right-hander was a bit shakier than usual, though he still managed to hold the Pirates to two runs in six innings. Peralta’s ERA through 21 games and 20 starts is 2.21, second-best among NL qualifiers to the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler (2.16).
Peralta was inside getting treatment when Tellez batted in the seventh. Next time Tellez comes up to bat in a big spot, he might bolt outside.
“A couple series ago, I was in the dugout during the game, and he hit a base hit and drove in a run that put us back in the game,” Peralta said. “We were enjoying that. All the fans chanted his name. I was part of that. Today, I was eating in the training room and I enjoyed it inside, but I was wishing to be out there. It was a great moment.”