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Yelich chasing Gehrig for single-team dominance

@AndrewSimonMLB
April 17, 2019

Christian Yelich is making life miserable for the Cardinals, and soon, he might make some history. The dominance began in 2018, Yelich’s first season in the National League Central. The Brewers' star posted a 1.030 OPS, smacked six homers and drove in 15 runs in 16 games against St. Louis,

Christian Yelich is making life miserable for the Cardinals, and soon, he might make some history.

The dominance began in 2018, Yelich’s first season in the National League Central. The Brewers' star posted a 1.030 OPS, smacked six homers and drove in 15 runs in 16 games against St. Louis, on his way to NL MVP honors.

But Yelich is taking his ownership of Cardinals pitching to another level so far in 2019. The teams met for the sixth time Tuesday night at Miller Park, and Yelich went 2-for-5 and launched a three-run homer that helped spur an 8-4 Milwaukee victory. That came one night after Yelich went deep three times and drove home seven in the series opener.

Here is the damage Yelich has done so far this season against the Cardinals: six games, 28 plate appearances, 11-for-21 (.524), one double, eight home runs (at least one in each game), 18 RBIs, 10 runs scored, and seven walks (two intentional). That’s good for a .643 on-base percentage and a 1.714 slugging percentage.

Yelich, as long as he stays healthy, will have 13 more matchups with his NL Central foe this season. After Wednesday afternoon’s series finale, the teams are scheduled to meet three more times, from April 22-24 at Busch Stadium, before taking a long hiatus. Their final nine games -- six in St. Louis, three in Milwaukee -- will come between Aug. 19 and Sept. 15.

Provided the Cardinals continue to pitch to Yelich, that gives him an opportunity to chase Lou Gehrig’s record for the most home runs against a single opponent in a single season.

Most single-season HR vs. one opponent
1) Lou Gehrig (NYY): 14 vs. CLE, 1936
2-T) Roger Maris (NYY): 13 vs. CHW, 1961
2-T) Joe Adcock (MIL Braves): 13 vs. BRO, 1956
2-T) Hank Sauer (CHC): 13 vs. PIT, 1954
2-T) Jimmie Foxx (PHI Athletics): 13 vs. DET, 1932

Of course, back then, players only faced the seven other teams in their own league. Gehrig, for example, got to play the Indians 23 times in 1936.

Since MLB split into divisions in 1969, only Sammy Sosa has gone deep as many as a dozen times against one team, doing so against the Brewers during the 1998 home run chase. However, Aaron Judge and Brian Dozier both have given that mark a good run within the past few years.

Most single-season HR vs. one opponent
Divisional era (since 1969)
1) Sammy Sosa (CHC): 12 vs. MIL, 1998
2-T) Aaron Judge (NYY): 11 vs. BAL, 2017
2-T) Brian Dozier (MIN): 11 vs. KC, 2016
2-T) Alex Rodriguez (TEX): 11 vs. LAA, 2003
2-T) Jim Thome (CLE): 11 vs. CHW, 2002
2-T) Barry Bonds (SF): 11 vs. SD, 2001
2-T) Luis Gonzalez (ARI): 11 vs. LAD, 2001
2-T) Sammy Sosa (CHC): 11 vs. HOU, 2001
2-T) Dale Murphy (ATL): 11 vs. SF, 1983
2-T) Willie Stargell (PIT): 11 vs. ATL, 1971
2-T) Harmon Killebrew (MIN): 11 vs. OAK, 1969

While Yelich has some work to do there, he already has the most home runs by a Brewers player against the Cardinals in a single season in club history, breaking Ryan Braun’s record of seven from 2008. Yelich is the first player from any team to go deep at least eight times in a season off St. Louis pitching since Houston’s Richard Hidalgo did it nine times in 2000. The only other player to accomplish that feat in the divisional era was Greg Luzinski of the ‘77 Phillies (nine).

The all-time record for single-season homers against the Cardinals is 10, set by the Phillies’ Cy Williams, way back in 1923.

With Yelich having hit just one homer in 12 games against other teams, he is the third player in MLB history to collect eight of his first nine big flies in a season against a single opponent, according to STATS. The others were the Senators’ Stan Spence against the 1943 Browns and the Pirates’ Max Carey against the ‘22 Giants, although both of those players reached that point much later in the season.

For now, it’s still mid-April. And yet, Yelich already has put together a good season’s worth of work tormenting the Redbirds.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.