The Milwaukee Brewers’ 2019 season isn’t over yet, but it’s already provided an array of memorable moments. For over a decade, I’ve been maintaining a “Today In Brewers History” calendar, a collection of notable transactions, games and moments, which I occasionally share on Twitter. The last few years have been well-represented in that space, and 2019 is no exception.
In lieu of a season recap, what follows is a brief look at the first 18 items—some good, some bad and some just weird—added to that calendar during the 2019 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.
The Brewers’ earliest Opening Day in franchise history picked right up where 2018 left off: With offensive fireworks from Christian Yelich. The reigning National League MVP reached base three times in the season’s first outing, walking twice and hitting a three-run homer to help the Brewers overcome an early deficit. This game also ended on a play for the ages: With two outs in the top of the ninth and Josh Hader on the mound, Lorenzo Cain robbed what would have been a game-tying homer in a highlight that kicked off what’s likely to be his first Gold Glove season.
By the end of the season’s first series the Cardinals were pretty sick of seeing Yelich. He homered in each of the four contests, becoming the first Brewer ever to start a season with four consecutive games with a long ball. Despite Yelich’s first inning blast, however, the Brewers still needed more late heroics from him to wrap up a series victory. He came up trailing 4-3 with two on in the bottom of the ninth and doubled to center to give the Brewers their first of six walkoff wins in 2019.
The Brewers forgot to wake up their bats for one of the earliest day games of the season, an 11:35 a.m. CST first pitch in Cincinnati, but Freddy Peralta didn’t need much from them. He pitched eight scoreless innings with no walks, two hits and 11 strikeouts. The Brewers managed just two hits, but scored the game’s only run in the second inning on a Jesus Aguilar walk, a balk and a Manny Pina single to clinch a 1-0 victory. Pitching while protecting a narrow advantage across eight scoreless innings netted Peralta a .660 Win Percentage Added (WPA) for the game, the highest by a Brewers pitcher this season by nearly 300 points.
The Brewers welcomed the Cardinals back to Miller Park to open a series and Yelich was happy to see them again: He tied franchise records with three home runs and seven runs batted in as Milwaukee rode a six-run second inning to a 10-7 victory. All told, Yelich batted .347, posted a .522 on-base percentage and slugged .878 in 16 games against St. Louis in 2019. With the win, the Brewers improved to 11-6, taking over sole possession of the National League’s best record. Within the division, they had a 1.5 game lead on the Pirates and Cardinals.
Shortly after that April 15 win, things started to trend in the wrong direction for the Brewers. They went 2-7 in the following nine games against two teams that eventually qualified for the postseason, the Cardinals and Dodgers. A loss in St. Louis on April 24 dropped them back to .500 at 13-13. Falling back to .500 also dropped the Brewers to fourth place in the NL Central for a day, the only time all season they fell below third place. Following the day’s action FanGraphs dropped their playoff odds to 22.6%, the lowest they had been at any point since May 15, 2018.
The Brewers played 14 extra innings games in 2019, but none longer than the marathon contest they played on this day against the Mets, the longest game by innings in Miller Park history. Mike Moustakas gave the Crew a 2-1 lead with a third-inning double but it slipped away in the ninth, as Pete Alonso led off the inning with a home run off Junior Guerra (Alonso’s 10th of 53 on the season) to send the game to extras. Ryan Braun was responsible for more than half of the Brewers’ offense in the contest, tying a franchise record with six hits while the rest of his teammates combined to go 5-for-54. The sixth hit was the difference, a walkoff RBI single in the 18th to finish off a 3-2 victory.
After sweeping the Mets in the aforementioned series and doing the same to the Nationals, the red-hot Brewers headed south to Chicago and retained their momentum, scoring two runs each in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings against a much-maligned Cubs bullpen to pick up a 7-0 victory. The win gave the Brewers their first seven-game winning streak of the season, although they later matched the feat twice in September. Gio Gonzalez picked up the win in the contest, his first in his second stint as a Brewer. He had re-signed with the team after opting out of a minor league deal with the Yankees two weeks earlier.
The very next day the Brewers and Cubs played a Saturday afternoon marathon at Wrigley Field, with both teams scoring in the fifth inning but neither team plating a second run until the 15th, when Wilson Contreras homered off Burch Smith to give the Brewers their first of five walkoff losses on the season. Moustakas had arguably the season’s worst offensive day by a Brewer in the contest. He went 0-for-6 in the game, including four at-bats with runners on base, struck out twice and grounded into a double play for a -.397 win percentage added, the worst by a Brewers hitter since Brad Miller posted a -.409 in July of 2018.
Help was on the way for the Brewers just a few days later as Keston Hiura was called to the show and made his Major League debut at second base less than two years after being the ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft. Hiura reached base three times with two singles and a walk in his first game as a Brewer, a 6-1 win over the Phillies. Hiura made 17 appearances in his first stint in the majors before returning to AAA in June, and batted .281 with a .333 on-base and .531 slugging in those contests. The Brewers went 10-7 in that span.
The Brewers’ tendency for wild extra innings games continued into June when they played a back-and-forth game for the ages in Pittsburgh. Milwaukee led 5-0 in the third, trailed 7-5 in the fifth, led 8-7 in the sixth, trailed 10-8 in the eighth, and scored two in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 10 and extend a late-afternoon start well into the evening. With two outs in the top of the 15th, Hernan Perez doubled to bring up Orlando Arcia, who homered for the second time in the game to give the Brewers a 12-10 lead. The multi-homer game was the ninth of 18 by Brewers in 2019.
A few days later, the Brewers were the victims of another offense’s big day. Already leading 4-0 in the top of the fifth inning, the Marlins sent 15 men to the plate and scored eleven runs to blow open what would eventually become a 16-0 win, the Brewers’ most lopsided loss of the season. All told, two Brewers relievers allowed six singles, three doubles, two walks (one intentional), an RBI ground out and an error in the fifth inning. It was the highest scoring inning in Marlins franchise history and the first time the Brewers had given up eleven in an inning since May 21, 2000.
Things didn’t get a lot better for the Brewers the next day in an 8-3 loss to the Marlins, but they did get some positive news on an individual level: Jimmy Nelson pitched three innings in his first MLB appearance since injuring his shoulder in 2017. Unfortunately, Nelson was unable to regain his 2017 form in his first season back. He allowed five runs in this game and posted a 7.65 ERA across nine appearances for the Brewers this season.
This time Moustakas was the hero in an extended game in Houston. His two-run homer in the top of the 14th inning gave the Brewers a 5-3 lead in a game they went on to win 6-3. The Brewers’ numbers three through six hitters in the orders all went deep in the game, with Braun, Yasmani Grandal, and Eric Thames joining Moustakas in the hit parade. The win improved the Brewers to 39-29 on the season and gave them a half game lead on the field in the NL Central. Following the day’s action FanGraphs had their playoff odds at 64.5%, a mark they wouldn’t reach again until September 20.
A west coast road trip took some air out of the Brewers’ sails. They went 1-5 in San Francisco and San Diego and brought their jet lag home to Miller Park, where they lost the first two of a series with the Reds. Despite home runs from Yelich, Moustakas, and Arcia and three stolen bases for Cain, an 11-7 loss on June 21 was their fifth consecutive defeat, their longest losing streak of the season.
Travis Shaw had been one of Milwaukee’s best hitters over the previous two seasons, posting a combined .844 on-base plus slugging over 296 games in 2017 and 2018, but he hit rock bottom on this day. He went 0-for-2 in the Brewers’ 4-2 win over the Mariners to drop his batting line to a .164 average, .278 on-base and .290 slugging for the season and the next day the Brewers demoted him to AAA. The hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League did wonders for Shaw’s numbers, as he hit .286/.437/.586 for San Antonio in 42 appearances, but his success never seemed to translate back to the MLB level. He went just 6-for-47 in 28 games across several stints back in Milwaukee.
The Brewers and Pirates hooked up in another wild contest for the ages in Pittsburgh, although this contest looked like one the Brewers had under control. They scored four in the top of the eighth to take a 6-1 lead but Deolis Guerra (in his first and only Brewers appearance) and Junior Guerra combined to give up five runs in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extras. Fortunately, the Brewers’ offense picked up their struggling relievers. Cain had the third of three consecutive singles in the top of the tenth to retake the lead at 7-6, and Junior Guerra returned to the mound to hold on for a scoreless bottom half to clinch the victory.
Things did not go as well for the Brewers the next day, as they allowed four runs to the Pirates in the bottom of the first inning and trailed throughout a 12-2 loss to Pittsburgh. The loss dropped them out of first place in the NL Central, a position they never regained. All told, the Brewers spent 53 days in first place in the division in 2019.
Christian Yelich was in the spotlight once again, leading the Brewers’ contingent at the 2019 All-Star Game. He was the 20th Brewer ever to start the contest and one of just two to start in the leadoff spot, joining Rickie Weeks in 2011. Three Brewers batters (Yelich, Moustakas, and Grandal) combined to go 0-for-5 in the contest, although Yasmani Grandal did walk and score a run. Brandon Woodruff, named to the roster in place of the injured Josh Hader, allowed a run in the seventh inning and the American League went on to win 4-3.