MILWAUKEE — Opposing pitchers have tried everything, yet Milwaukee Brewers all-world right fielder Christian Yelich keeps hurting them no matter what they throw.
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Yelich’s first career playoff game went a lot like his month of September, as he homered off a changeup early, walked late — after getting down 0-2 — and eventually scored the winning run in the Brewers’ 3-2, 10-inning victory Thursday over the Colorado Rockies in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
“He’s such a difficult out,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after the game. “He’s down 0-2 to [Adam] Ottavino and somehow manages to work his way back. And obviously the home run was huge.”
In between the third-inning home run and 10th-inning walk, Yelich added another free pass as well as another base hit. He also stole second, becoming just the second Brewers player to hit a home run and steal a base in a playoff game.
“That guy has been carrying us all year,” teammate Mike Moustakas said.
Moustakas drove in Yelich from third base for the winning run, which is a bit of a reversal, as Yelich has been the one inflicting the damage on the opposition during his huge tear. He drove in an eye-popping 34 runs in September, solidifying his status as the odds-on favorite to win the MVP.
“I think the biggest thing is just focusing on the day-to-day, your routine, not getting caught up in the future or the past and just being right there and focusing on what you have to do that day or that night to help your team win,” Yelich said nonchalantly.
Moustakas rips walk-off single in 10thMike Moustakas rips a single to right, driving in Christian Yelich to send Brewers fans home happy in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Yelich hit a changeup for a home run, singled on a sinker, took ball four on another sinker, then fought back from 0-2 to take another walk on a cutter. His plate coverage is otherworldly right now, leading to fits in the other dugout.
“His timing looks like he’s impeccable,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He’s on everything. Even his takes are good.
“He had the walk, hit the ball back up the middle against [Chris] Rusin. Even the at-bat against Ottavino, Otto had him 0-2 and made some good pitches, couldn’t put him away. But yeah, obviously he’s in a good spot.”
So what can the Rockies do with Yelich the rest of this best-of-five series, which might be short-lived if he keeps this up? Pitchers seem damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Walking the leadoff man in a tie game in the 10th inning isn’t exactly sound thinking, but Yelich has the ability to end the game with one swing, or at least put himself in scoring position. Even though it didn’t work out for the Rockies on Thursday, it’s hard to come down on Ottavino, who kept making good pitches. Yelich just keeps having better at-bats.
“Well, I think it’s tough to walk a leadoff hitter, right?” Black asked no one in particular. “It’s not ideal. But when you’ve got a guy like that, you’ve got to really pitch him tough.”
Colorado found that out the hard way. Just like the rest of the National League has all season.