MILWAUKEE -- Are the baseball gods wearing Brewers blue this week? If one believes in that sort of thing, it sure feels that way.A sellout crowd filled Miller Park on Friday to welcome home Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun and the postseason-bound Brewers, who needed another dose of good fortune to
MILWAUKEE -- Are the baseball gods wearing Brewers blue this week? If one believes in that sort of thing, it sure feels that way.
A sellout crowd filled Miller Park on Friday to welcome home Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun and the postseason-bound Brewers, who needed another dose of good fortune to beat the Tigers, 6-5, and remain alive in the race for the National League Central.
Yelich and Braun homered in a three-run first inning, and Braun made it a multihomer night in the eighth, when his tiebreaking solo shot hit the glove of right fielder Nicholas Castellanos and rolled along the top of the right field wall before dropping over.
Milwaukee remained one game behind the first-place Cubs with two to play after Chicago won its series opener with St. Louis earlier in the day, but 44,770 fans may have been wondering whether they were watching a Brewers team of destiny. Two days earlier, they ensured at least the top NL Wild Card spot after a Cardinals pinch-runner slipped around third base in the eighth inning for a crucial out in Milwaukee's 2-1 win.
"The way this year has gone, I assumed [Castellanos] was going to catch it," said Braun, who can point to a stack of spreadsheets showing he's hit into hard luck all season.
But this week has gone differently.
"It feels like when you're playing good, you get the breaks," Braun said. "It's almost like you create the good luck."
And that's definitely what it was, from Brewers manager Craig Counsell's vantage point.
"I just saw a replay," Counsell said. "If he doesn't put a glove on it, it doesn't go over the fence. We caught a break."
"It kind of happened fast," Castellanos said.
Friday's game-changing break came after the Tigers stunned the crowd with a game-tying two-run home run for pinch-hitter Dawel Lugo off Brewers relief ace Josh Hader, who didn't have his command while facing four batters in the eighth. Hader hit Jeimer Candelario with a pitch -- Milwaukee challenged, but the call stood -- to start the inning, before Lugo connected for Detroit's first pinch-hit home run in more than two years.
At the outset of the game, it appeared good fortune was on the Tigers' side in their first visit to Miller Park since 2006. They took a 3-0 lead against Zach Davies with five straight singles, none of them particularly hard-hit, before Yelich smashed a tying two-run home run in the bottom of the inning and Braun tied the game three batters later with a solo homer off Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann.
With a clean slate, Davies didn't allow a hit over three more innings and saw the Brewers take a 5-3 lead by the end of his four-inning outing.
Even when that lead slipped away from Hader, Davies said, "I don't think anybody in the dugout thought we were going to lose that game."
After missing time last week with a stiff back, Braun has five home runs in the last four games, including his 31st and 32nd career multihomer games. He hit one home run in the previous 28 games.
He reached 20 home runs for the ninth season, extending his own franchise record. Geoff Jenkins has seven seasons of 20-plus homers.
"He picked a good week to lock it in," Counsell said. "With his resume and what he's done, I'm not surprised. He's done this before. He's been here before."
Braun suggested he felt it coming.
"I woke up on Monday and I told everybody, 'I got you. As long as I stay healthy, I'm going to dominate the rest of the way,'" Braun said. "So far, so good. We've got two more big ones ahead of us.
"All we can do is continue to control the things we can control, handle our business here, win -- and hope the Cardinals come through for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Another MVP moment: Yelich added to his personal highlight reel, first by teaming with a younger brother who recently returned from fulfilling his commitment to the Marine Corps for a ceremonial first pitch, then by hitting the first pitch he saw in the game for a momentum-swinging two-run home run. Yelich followed his homer with a walk and a run scored in the third and then another walk in the fourth to reach safely in a ninth consecutive plate appearance.
That stretch, which ended with a called strikeout in the seventh, included a three-run homer, a two-run homer and seven walks. Yelich is the NL leader with a .322 batting average, is within two home runs of league leader Matt Carpenter's 34 and within five RBIs of league leader Javier Baez's 111.
"He just continues to do things every night that are insane, really," Counsell said. "If you were voting for somebody else in the MVP [at the start of] September, you'd better look at his month of September. Don't make up your mind. Re-look at the month of September, because he's been absolutely amazing." More >
All square again: Hader has pitched 54 times this season. Friday marked only the seventh time he didn't record a single strikeout. Lugo's tying home run to left field was the infielder's first of his Major League career.
"He just wasn't sharp," Counsell said. "A couple hitters got in some good counts with him, and give the guy credit. He hit a ball in on him for a homer. [Hader] just didn't have it tonight, so we went to [Joakim] Soria, and he got us out of it. We bailed him out. Josh has certainly bailed us out a lot of nights."
The Brewers have won eight of their last 10 games while outscoring opponents, 63-29. With their 93rd win, Milwaukee tied the 1978 "Bambi's Bombers" Brewers for the fourth-most wins in franchise history.
HE SAID IT
"[Postseason baseball] is the best. I wish it happened more often. The fans are extremely excited, as are the players, I'm sure -- as am I." Hall of Famer Robin Yount, who dropped by for the final weekend of the regular season
Steady lefty Wade Miley takes the mound on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT, as the Brewers try to stay alive in the division race. It's his 16th Brewers start, and he has yet to allow more than three earned runs in an outing. Left-hander Daniel Norris is scheduled for Detroit.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.