The Milwaukee Brewers’ long grand slam crisis came to an abrupt end Tuesday night when Christian Yelich (who else?) plated four runs with one swing of the bat to blow open what eventually became a 13-1 win over the Braves. Both the slam and the blowout are rare occurrences for the Brewers’ lately: As Curt Hogg noted on Twitter, the Brewers’ previous nine wins had come by a combined 14 runs.
The Brewers went so long between grand slams that the last player to do it was no longer in the organization: Jonathan Schoop hit one off Madison Bumgarner on September 9, 2018. It was the 174th slam in franchise history, and the wait for #175 stretched longer than anyone likely anticipated.
Before Yelich took Huascar Ynoa deep with the bases loaded in the seventh inning on Tuesday, the Brewers had gone 113 games between grand slams, the 11th longest streak in franchise history and the longest since 2008. During that span the Brewers logged 123 plate appearances with the bases loaded, averaging slightly more than one such opportunity per game. Lorenzo Cain had 15 of those appearances, going 3-for-14 with a walk and three doubles. Christian Yelich and Orlando Arcia also each came up 13 times with the bases loaded during the streak.
While 113 games between slams felt like a long time, this streak barely even approached the Brewers’ franchise record for bases loaded home run futility. Here are the organization’s five longest streaks:
June 17, 1975 to June 25, 1977: 334 games
Gorman Thomas’ first full season in the majors wasn’t exactly one to remember: He batted just .179 with a .268 on-base percentage in 121 games in 1975, but he did connect for 10 home runs and one of them was a grand slam off Yankees lefty Rudy May. Thomas was one of just nine batters to homer off May all season, as he led the American League with just 0.4 long balls allowed per nine innings.
More than two years later, Thomas was back in the minors (and about to be traded to the Rangers) when Cecil Cooper came to the plate trailing by two runs with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Mariners. Seattle brought in veteran lefty Mike Kekich to face Cooper and lived to regret the decision, as Cooper hit the first walkoff grand slam in Brewers franchise history.
All told, the Brewers had gone 266 consecutive plate appearances with the bases loaded (about .8 per game) without a grand slam. Don Money had 23 of those opportunities and went 6-for-20 with three walks and a walkoff bunt single, but no homers.
August 16, 1985 to August 3, 1987: 315 games
Cecil Cooper’s first Brewers grand slam snapped the longest drought in Brewers franchise history and his final slam started the second longest: He untied a 3-3 game in the seventh inning with a slam off White Sox lefty Floyd Bannister. It was Cooper’s ninth home run of the season, but the Brewers’ last slam for nearly two years.
Steve Kiefer is a much less memorable Brewer: A utility infielder, he appeared in just 37 games over three stints as a Brewer from 1986-88. He hit just five home runs during his time in Milwaukee but one of them came in a wild game on August 4, 1987, when he drove home Paul Molitor, Rob Deer, Greg Brock, and himself to give the Brewers a 6-5 lead over the Orioles in the third inning of a game they went on to win 9-8 in the 12th.
Over the course of the streak Brewers batters had 263 opportunities with the bases loaded (again, about .8 per game). Kiefer had been up three times in similar situations in the previous two weeks and gone 0-for-3 with a double play. Six different Brewers had walkoff RBI with the bases loaded during the streak, but none had bases loaded home runs.
September 8, 2005 to April 15, 2007: 195 games
J.J. Hardy’s grand slam on September 7, 2005 didn’t draw a lot of attention. It was the sixth home run of his rookie season and it came in a relatively low-leverage situation, as the Brewers were already leading 9-3 in a game they went on to win 14-5 against the Reds. It came against reliever Chris Booker, who eventually retired with a 14.29 earned run average in 17 MLB appearances. After that game, however, fans had to wait well over a year to see the feat repeated.
The Brewers’ longest slamless streak during their National League tenure ended on April 16, 2007, and the drought both started and ended in Cincinnati. This time it was Bill Hall taking reliever and future teammate Todd Coffey deep to help the Brewers open up a game they eventually won 10-6. Hardy was one of the Brewers teammates that Hall scored with the blast.
The Brewers have endured three seasons in franchise history with no grand slams: 1976, 1986, and 2006. This streak included 177 opportunities with the bases loaded (about .9 per game), including 17 for catcher Damian Miller. He went a combined 2-16 in those plate appearances with one hit by pitch.
September 19, 2007 to September 24, 2008: 170 games
The Brewers hit eight grand slams in 2007 before going a while without one again. Johnny Estrada hit the last one of that season, a fourth-inning shot off Astros hurler Felipe Paulino to give the Brewers a 5-1 lead.
Estrada’s homer may not have been all that memorable, but the one that snapped the streak certainly was: On September 25, 2008, with the Brewers in their first pennant race in over a decade, Ryan Braun hit a tenth inning walkoff slam off of Pirates reliever Jesse Chavez to give the Brewers a 5-1 victory.
This was the sixth time the Brewers had gone a full calendar year without a slam, but one of the others had unusual circumstances: The Brewers didn’t homer with the bases loaded from May 29, 1981 until July 1, 1982, but that streak was only 140 games due to the strike-abbreviated 1981 season.
May 16, 1992 to May 20, 1993: 167 games
Braun’s extra inning, walkoff grand slam was the second in Brewers history. The first was the start of this streak: First baseman Franklin Stubbs hit a tenth inning slam off Kenny Rogers and the Rangers to give the Brewers a 7-3 victory at County Stadium on May 15, 1992.
Just over a year later the Brewers finally connected for a slam again: This time it was Kevin Reimer going deep off of Orioles starter and 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Mike Mussina in the third inning of a 9-3 victory on May 21, 1993. Mussina allowed two grand slams that season, then just two more over the remaining 15 years of his MLB career.
The Brewers sent 119 batters to the plate with the bases loaded during this streak, about .7 per game. Darryl Hamilton had seven such appearances in September of 1992 alone. Greg Vaughn came up with the bases loaded 17 times during the streak but managed just one single and three walks in those opportunities.
Others of note:
• The ninth and tenth longest grand slam droughts in franchise history occurred back-to-back: The Brewers went 139 games between such events from 1989-90 and 132 games from 1990-91. Darryl Hamilton put the exclamation point on a 20-7 win over the Angels on July 8, 1990 as part of a 13-run inning that produced the Brewers’ only slam for nearly two calendar years.
• Before their most recent drought, the last time the Brewers went 100 games between grand slams was July 5, 2011 to May 11, 2012. It’s hard to find a pair of more unlikely heroes than the tandem that bookended that streak: Pitcher Shaun Marcum hit a grand slam in a game the Brewers lost anyway on July 4, 2011, and utility infielder Edwin Maysonet’s slam was his only home run or RBI as a Brewer on May 12, 2012.
• Fans had to wait a while for the Brewers’ first grand slam in Milwaukee. The Seattle Pilots and Brewers had combined for 93 consecutive games without a slam before Roberto Pena hit an inside-the-park slam, one of just two in franchise history, on May 30, 1970.