The Brewers’ 2018 season may be over, but it provided no shortage of memorable moments. What follows is Part 2 of the list of items, good, bad or just weird, that I added to my “Today In Brewers History” calendar this season. Here’s a recap of events from before the All-Star break.
The Brewers had entered the All-Star break in a prolonged slump, and it continued into a home series against the Dodgers, where they lost two of three and fell to 2-9 in their last 11 contests. Things bottomed out a bit in the final game of that series, as the Dodgers scored 11 runs in the first five innings of a blowout win. Things got so far out of hand that the Brewers brought two different position players to the mound, Hernan Perez and Erik Kratz, to finish out the game. It was only the second time in franchise history when two Brewers position players took the mound on the same day.
The Brewers didn’t fare much better in the final game of a series in Los Angeles a couple of weeks later. The Dodgers scored in six of the first seven innings, including nine runs in the seventh, en route to a 21-5 blowout victory. Perez and Kratz also both pitched in this game, with Perez allowing Los Angeles’ final five runs.
By allowing 21 runs, the Brewers broke a franchise record that had stood since 1975. They were also the first team ever to allow 21 runs (or 20, for that matter) in a game at Dodger Stadium, a ballpark that has been in use since 1962.
The Brewers’ bats did eventually come around and return the favor to other teams. In the middle game of a series against the Padres, they exploded for five runs in the first inning, including back-to-back-to-back home runs for Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, and Eric Thames against rookie Brett Kennedy, who got a rude welcome in his Major League debut.
Unfortunately, the Padres paid them back the next day. The Brewers took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning of the series finale, but gave up six runs in the top of the frame and lost 8-4. The big blow was left fielder Hunter Renfroe’s one-out, go-ahead grand slam off Joakim Soria. The blast was only the third time in franchise history the Brewers had allowed a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning or later, but the second time in two seasons: Carlos Torres had also given one up to the Dodgers in June of 2017.
A tough stretch continued for the Brewers with another notably odd offensive day in Atlanta: The Brewers’ bats came through for 19 hits in a game against the Braves, but they lost 8-7 anyway, setting a franchise record for most hits in a losing effort. Lorenzo Cain, Aguilar, and Perez each had three hits in the game, and Kratz went two-for-two, despite not entering the game until the bottom of the sixth inning. The Brewers stranded 13 on base.
If you’re looking for a point where the season turned around, maybe this is it. The Brewers had won three of four, but were still 18-23 in their last 41 games when they welcomed the Pirates into Miller Park for the first time since losing five in a row in Pittsburgh in July. Milwaukee ran out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but didn’t score again for several hours, as the Pirates rallied to tie the game at four into the ninth inning. Neither team scored again until the 15th.
The game looked all-but-over in the top of that inning when the Pirates loaded the bases against Jordan Lyles and scored twice on Francisco Cervelli’s single to take a 6-4 lead. But the Brewers came roaring back in the bottom half, with walks from Aguilar, Perez, and Lyles to load the bases for Kratz and Orlando Arcia, who hit back-to-back singles to walk off with an improbable victory. Including this win, the Brewers went 25-9 in their final 34 regular season games.
Christian Yelich put together an offensive performance for the ages when the Brewers needed it most, collecting six hits and hitting for the cycle in a 13-12 extra innings win over the Reds at Miller Park. He singled in the first inning, singled again in the third, homered in the fifth, doubled in the sixth, legged out a triple in the seventh, and tied a Brewers franchise record for hits in a game by singling again in the ninth.
The cycle was only the eighth in Brewers franchise history, and the six-hit game was the fourth in team history. He was only the fourth player in the Majors since 1920 to do both in the same game.
It’s hard to believe in hindsight, but a Brewers team that won the NL Central entered the month of September in third place. On September 2, they rode a seven-run fifth inning to a 9-4 win over the Nationals, thus leapfrogging the Cardinals in the standings and leaving only the Cubs (and their five-game lead) between themselves and the third division title in franchise history.
The Brewers and Cubs met six times in September and the Brewers picked up four wins, each of which would turn out to be crucial. They took a 2-1 lead into the top of the ninth in their final scheduled game at Wrigley Field, but blew it open in their final at bats with a Curtis Granderson home run and Mike Moustakas two-run single to ice a 5-1 victory. The win brought the Brewers back within a game of first place.
The Brewers returned home after the Cubs series and experienced a bit of a letdown, losing two of three to the Pirates at Miller Park. In the final game of that series, they trailed 3-0 heading to the bottom of the ninth before Aguilar and Domingo Santana hit back-to-back homers to bring them back within a run. They failed to mount any offense after that, however, and lost 3-2. This loss clinched a series victory for Pittsburgh, the only team to win a series against the Brewers in their final 36 regular season games.
The 2018 entries on the “Today In Brewer History” calendar could pretty quickly become a “What did Christian Yelich do today?” calendar for the stretch run. For the second time in less than a month, he hit for the cycle against the Reds. This time, he went four-for-four and driving in four runs in an 8-0 victory. Yelich is the only Brewer ever to cycle twice in the same career, much less the same season.
A few days later, it was a pitcher’s turn to make history: Josh Hader entered an eventual 8-3 win over the Pirates in the sixth inning and recorded each of his first three outs via strikeout. Those three punchouts extended his streak to 16 consecutive outs recorded via K over a span of two weeks. It’s the longest such streak in MLB history.
The only bittersweet element to Hader’s streak is that he replaced another Brewers lefty atop the all-time list: Mitch Stetter recorded 15 consecutive outs via strikeout in June of 2009.
After spending most of the season playing poorly against the Pirates, the Brewers were the beneficiary of Pittsburgh returning the favor in the season’s final game at PNC Park. The Brewers won the game 13-6 behind an RBI hit by pitch, two RBI walks, and two wild pitches that combined to score four runs.
The Brewers took “bullpenning” to a whole new level in their series opener against the Cardinals, using lefty Dan Jennings as the “initial out getter,” but removing him after just one batter (that batter being one-time Cardinals MVP candidate Matt Carpenter). Jennings was followed to the mound by Freddy Peralta, who pitched 3 2/3 innings, but the Brewers used seven more pitchers to record the next 15 outs. Milwaukee won the game, 6-4, and it was the first time they had ever used nine or more pitchers in a nine-inning victory.
Very few teams could stop Yelich in the month of September, so the Cardinals stopped trying. They walked him in each of his five plate appearances this day, tying a Brewers franchise record. He came around to score both Milwaukee runs in a 2-1 victory. Jhoulys Chacin and four relievers combined to hold the Cardinals to just two hits in the contest. The win was also a significant one in the standings, as the Brewers clinched their first postseason berth since 2011.
The season’s final series turned into The Yelich Show once again: he homered twice and scored the deciding run as the Brewers beat the Tigers 6-5 at Miller Park. The win brought the Brewers into a tie for first place in the NL Central for the first time since July. Yelich’s second homer was his 18th in a span of 37 games. Before 2018, he had never hit more than 21 in a full season.
After both the Brewers and Cubs blew out their respective opponents on the last day of the regular season, the stage was set for a one-game playoff at Wrigley Field to determine the NL Central champion. The Brewers beat the Cubs 3-1 behind RBI singles from Yelich, Cain, and Ryan Braun and the first four-hit game of Arcia’s career, plus solid pitching performances from Jhoulys Chacin and Hader.
With the win, the Brewers didn’t just clinch the NL Central and the National League’s best record, they also tied a franchise record with 96 regular season victories.
After opening the NLDS with a pair of home victories against the Rockies, the Brewers had earned three chances to close out the series. As it turns out, they only needed one. They scored in the first inning against German Marquez and never looked back, holding Colorado to just four hits in a 6-0 win to clinch a spot in the NLCS.
The series win was the first postseason sweep in Brewers franchise history, and just the third series win. Counting the final eight games of the regular season, the Brewers had won 11 consecutive contests for just the second time in franchise history.
The Brewers won two of the NLCS’ first three games and had a chance for more on a late night at Dodger Stadium, but had it slip through their fingers. Gio Gonzalez gave up an early run, but the Brewers tied the game on a Santana double in the fifth inning. Then, neither team scored again for several hours. The Dodgers finally walked off with the win on a Cody Bellinger ground ball single in the bottom of the 13th, a play that happened at 1:24 am CST on a Wednesday.
At five hours and 15 minutes, Game 4 was the second-longest NLCS game ever, topped only by a Braves-Mets 15-inning marathon that went on for 5:46 in 1999. Cain and Moustakas both went 0-for-6 in the contest, becoming the first Brewers ever with six hitless at-bats in a playoff game.
Despite having called upon his bullpen to pitch 12 innings the night before, Craig Counsell and the Brewers attempted a risky strategic swerve in the series’ fifth game by pulling starting pitcher Wade Miley after just one batter, which was a leadoff walk. Brandon Woodruff, who replaced Miley, kept the Dodgers off the board until the fifth inning, but it was not enough, as Los Angeles picked up a 5-2 victory and the Brewers fell behind 3-2 in the series.
The Brewers picked up a Game 6 victory to force an NLCS-deciding game at Miller Park, but a series victory was not in the cards. They didn’t score again after Yelich’s first inning solo home run, then fell behind 2-1 in the top of the second and never recovered, losing 5-1 to end their run at the World Series. Hader kept the Brewers in the game with three scoreless innings in relief, but the bats could not pick him up.