Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Crew's ASG hopefuls make splash vs. Reds

@AdamMcCalvy
June 22, 2019

MILWAUKEE -- It was a pretty good start for the Brewers’ trio of All-Star Game hopefuls. The guy who wrote the lineup, too. A five-game losing streak was as good a time as any to shake things up in the lineup, so manager Craig Counsell tried something new on Saturday,

MILWAUKEE -- It was a pretty good start for the Brewers’ trio of All-Star Game hopefuls. The guy who wrote the lineup, too.

A five-game losing streak was as good a time as any to shake things up in the lineup, so manager Craig Counsell tried something new on Saturday, with Yasmani Grandal leading off in front of Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas against the Reds. All three were enjoying their first full day as finalists to start the 90th All-Star Game in Cleveland ahead of Wednesday’s vote, and all three reached safely the first time up -- Grandal on a line-drive home run -- to key a four-run rally and open a 6-5 win at sold-out Miller Park, snapping Milwaukee’s skid.

Box score

Grandal added an RBI double and a walk in his first career start as a leadoff hitter. He was the first Brewers catcher to lead off since Jonathan Lucroy on June 12, 2015, against the Nationals. He became the first Brewers catcher in history to hit a leadoff home run, and only the second catcher in MLB to do so in the past eight years. The Cubs’ Willson Contreras hit a leadoff shot on June 26, 2017, at Washington.

Grandal sort of called his shot before the game.

“My speed this year has been pretty impressive,” Grandal deadpanned. “Rickey Henderson-type. My job is getting on base, stealing second and third. Possibly home. And hitting homers.”

Turns out, he went the home run route to start. Grandal did it with a low line drive -- at 16 degrees, according to Statcast, it was the lowest launch angle for a Brewers home run this season.

“Yeah, I just didn’t jump up,” said Grandal, referring to Rickey’s famous hop out of the batter’s box. “I didn’t know it was a homer.”

After Grandal connected against Reds starter Luis Castillo to put the Brewers on the board, Yelich walked to keep the line moving for Moustakas’ double, and Lorenzo Cain walked before Reds shortstop Jose Iglesias booted an Orlando Arcia grounder for two more runs. That extended the inning for Travis Shaw’s run-scoring groundout. All told, the Brewers turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 lead, then pushed ahead again in the fourth inning on Grandal’s run-scoring double after the Reds had tied the game against Jhoulys Chacin.

“I know Yasmani is always hyped, always ready,” Chacin said. “I wasn’t surprised that he hit a homer there, because an hour and a half before the game, he’s ready for the game. You don’t see catchers ready for the game that early.”

Grandal is vying with Contreras and the Braves’ Brian McCann to start at catcher for the National League in Cleveland. Moustakas is a finalist at second base with the Braves’ Ozzie Albies and the D-backs' Ketel Marte. And Yelich is one of nine NL outfield finalists after getting the second-most votes (to the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger) of any Major League player in primary voting.

All three played a role in snapping the Brewers’ longest losing streak of 2019, even though Yelich didn’t get a hit. Moustakas tallied two hits and scored a run, but his biggest contribution came before he batted for the first time, when he teamed with Arcia on a top five defensive play for the Brewers this season to end Chacin’s long first inning. Moustakas gloved an Iglesias grounder up the middle and scooped it to Arcia, who spun and threw to first. The initial call was safe, but the Brewers challenged and won.

“Momentum definitely changed,” Grandal said. “It got the offense going, we started putting good ABs together, we started getting guys on base and all of a sudden it was a tie ballgame.”

Yelich came within a few feet of hitting home run No. 30 in the second, only to settle for a warning track fly out. He went hitless in three at-bats to snap the longest hitting streak of his career at 18 games.

He still has 14 games to become the first Brewers player ever to hit 30 home runs before the All-Star break. That power is one reason he trailed only Bellinger in primary voting.

“I appreciate the support from fans,” Yelich said. “You just never know how that voting is going to go because it always seems like it’s wild every year. There’s surprises every year. It’s been really cool. You don’t take the support lightly.”

There is a chance the top third of the new-look lineup will be similar on Sunday. One thing was sure: Grandal will be back in the leadoff spot.

“I'm hoping this is [a spark],” Counsell said. “That's kind of the reason, just do something a little different.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.