The Brewers’ 2018 season isn’t over yet, but it’s already provided an array of memorable moments.
Each morning in the Frosty Mug, I include a section titled “Today In Brewers History,” where we take a moment to look back at notable events from prior years. While the Mug itself is wrapping up at the end of this Brewers season, I’m still maintaining the Today In Brewers History calendar in anticipation of possibly using it again someday. As you might imagine, 2018 is going to be well represented in that space.
En lieu of a season recap, what follows is a brief look at the first 15 items—some good, some bad and some just weird—added to that calendar during the 2018 regular season. Part two of this feature, containing the notable events from the season’s second half, will run following the end of the season.
On the earliest US-based Opening Day in MLB history, the Brewers and Padres played a thriller in San Diego. Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich made their Brewers debuts in the contest and combined for four hits. But the star of the day was another debut, Ji-Man Choi, who hit his way onto the roster with a torrid spring. He doubled in a pinch hit appearance in the 12th and scored on Orlando Arcia’s RBI single with the eventual winning run.
The Brewers followed their Opening Day win with a comeback for the ages just one day later. They trailed the Padres 6-3 entering the top of the ninth inning, but exploded for five runs in the final frame on four hits and an error, including a three-run home run from Ryan Braun. It was their first of 42 come-from-behind wins during the regular season.
Oliver Drake picked up the win in relief, his only victory as a Brewer in 2018. He went on to make MLB history by pitching for five different teams this season: The Brewers, Cleveland, the Angels, Blue Jays and Twins.
The Brewers and Cardinals pulled off a rare feat of symmetry in the second game of the home schedule at Miller Park: The game began with St. Louis outfielders Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham hitting back-to-back home runs off Chase Anderson, and ended with Brewers outfielders Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun hitting back-to-back homes off Cardinals reliever Dominic Leone. Yelich’s home run was his first as a Brewer.
A bullpen that would be one of the Brewers’ greatest strengths all season had a meltdown for the ages in St. Louis. The trouble started when Oliver Drake walked in a run in the sixth inning to tie the game at one. The Brewers took the lead again in the top of the ninth but blew it again in the bottom half when Jacob Barnes allowed a run on a wild pitch. The offense responded with another run in the top of the tenth but J.J. Hoover again gave up the lead in the bottom half, before finally allowing a two-run walkoff homer to Matt Carpenter in the 11th. All told, three pitchers were awarded a blown save in the contest for the first time in Brewers franchise history.
To steal a line from Clerks, Freddy Peralta wasn’t even supposed to be here today. He was called up at the last moment from AAA Colorado Springs to make a spot start at Coors Field and ended up having one of the best MLB debuts in Brewers history. Wielding a fastball the Rockies simply could not seem to locate, Peralta struck out 13 of the 21 batters he faced and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the Brewers’ 7-3 win over the Rockies. His success that day opened the door for 13 more starts as a Brewer this season.
Another relatively new Brewer produced a memorable moment the following night. With the Brewers leading 5-2 in the top of the ninth, infielder Tyler Saladino came to the plate as a pinch hitter for Josh Hader and hit a two-run, inside-the-park home run to score Christian Yelich and blow the game open.
The inside-the-parker was the 28th in Brewers franchise history but only the second since 2012. Orlando Arcia had the other one in June of 2017.
Travis Shaw led the Brewers with three hits in a win over the Mets, but he drove in the Brewers’ final run without swinging the bat. The game was tied at three in the bottom of the tenth inning when Eric Sogard and Lorenzo Cain singled and Christian Yelich walked to bring up Shaw with two outs, and he drew a five-pitch walk from New York pitcher AJ Ramos to bring home the winning run. Shaw’s RBI walk was only the tenth walkoff walk in franchise history, and the first since Rickie Weeks had done it in 2010.
It probably didn’t seem all that important when Mets outfielder Jay Bruce singled off Jhoulys Chacin to lead off the top of the second inning this day, but it extended a long streak: This was the 5,000th Brewers game since Juan Nieves’ 1987 no-hitter, and the Brewers had allowed at least one hit in all of them.
Through game #163 the Brewers have now played 5,109 consecutive regular season games without throwing a no-hitter. It’s the tenth-longest streak in MLB history, and the third longest active streak.
Brent Suter had a pair of memorable moments at the plate in 2018. First, in a relief appearance on May 8, he homered off of Cleveland pitcher and two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Then, in a game against the Phillies, he had another remarkable moment against another former Cy winner, Jake Arrieta.
Suter came to the plate with the bases loaded in the second inning of a scoreless game against the Phillies and, with two strikes against him, took a pitch off his right foot to drive in a run. To date Suter is the only Brewers pitcher ever to drive in a run by getting hit by a pitch.
Junior Guerra, Jack Flaherty and their respective bullpens combined to pitch a pair of gems when the Brewers and Cardinals met on this day, allowing a combined three runs on just six hits over 17 1/3 innings. Jesus Aguilar rained on the pitching parade, however, driving in both Brewers runs with solo homers in the first and ninth inning of a 2-1 walkoff victory. The Brewers have had a player hit two home runs in a game 406 times in franchise history, but this was only the fourth time the Brewers have won a game with the only scoring coming on two solo homers from the same player.
A Saturday afternoon game against the Reds got ugly in a hurry, as Cincinnati scored eight runs in the seventh inning of a 12-3 blowout. The Brewers were already trailing 6-3 in the game when pitcher Michael Lorenzen entered the game as a pinch hitter and blew it open with a grand slam off of Jacob Barnes. Lorenzen has six career home runs, and three of them came against the Brewers this season.
How do you top giving up a grand slam to an opposing pitcher? The Brewers tried to do it by giving up another grand slam the following day. This time it wasn’t the opposing pitcher, but Reds shortstop Jose Peraza’s sixth inning slam off Aaron Wilkerson blew open a game the Reds eventually won 8-3.
The Brewers, however, were still not done. They came back to Miller Park to open an interleague series against the Twins and gave up a grand slam in their third consecutive game, this one to outfielder Robbie Grossman. That was not the end of the story this time, however, as they scored three in the bottom of the fifth and single tallies in the ninth and tenth to walk off with a 6-5 win. Brewers pitchers only gave up five grand slams in 2018, but three of them came on consecutive days.
And now some fun with math: The Brewers beat the Braves on July 6, while the Cubs lost to the Reds, giving Milwaukee a 2.5 game lead in the NL Central. Factoring in those results, FanGraphs estimated the Brewers had a 78.7% chance to reach the postseason, up from just 43.4% a month earlier. This would turn out to be something of a high watermark: The Brewers lost the next day, fell out of first place a few days after that, and didn’t see their postseason odds rise above this point again until September 3.
The Brewers went into the All Star break in a dreadful slump, having lost five in a row in Pittsburgh and six in a row overall. The All-Star Game gave Brewers fans plenty to cheer for, however, as five players represented the organization in the game: Jesus Aguilar, Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Josh Hader, and Jeremy Jeffress all got into the contest, the first time five Brewers had ever played in a single ASG.
After Hader dug the NL into a hole with three runs in the top of the eighth (and fell into a different kind of hole as his old tweets began to surface), Christian Yelich helped the NL climb back out with an eighth inning solo home run. He joined Prince Fielder as the only Brewers ever to homer in the Midsummer Classic.