MILWAUKEE (AP) — Christian Yelich led the way for the Milwaukee Brewers, from his first swing to the very last one for the game.
So it was a pretty typical day for the reigning NL MVP.
Yelich hit his fourth homer in the first inning and a two-run double in the ninth, lifting the Brewers to a dramatic 5-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.
“What we’re witnessing is greatness,” Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun said. “It’s absolutely incredible.”
Ben Gamel led off the ninth with a pinch-hit double and advanced on Lorenzo Cain’s infield single off reliever Jordan Hicks’ glove. Yelich then hit a liner into the gap in left-center, driving in Gamel and Cain.
“We were just trying to find a way to push one across and tie the game,” Yelich said. “(Hicks) has great stuff. One snuck in the line, and Lo’s deflected off his glove and we were able to pull it off.”
Yelich tipped his cap to Gamel.
“It’s really hard to pinch-hit against a guy who throws that hard and has that good of stuff,” Yelich said. “(Gamel) was able to battle and sneak one in there. He got the whole thing started for us.”
Yelich tossed his helmet in the air in celebration as Cain slid face first across the plate, giving Milwaukee three wins its opening four-game set against rival St. Louis. Yelich’s teammates rushed the field and doused the reigning NL MVP with Gatorade in a raucous celebration at second.
The 27-year-old Yelich hit .326 with 36 homers and 110 RBIs last year, leading the Brewers to the NL Central title. He is 6 for 12 with six walks and eight RBIs so far this season.
“I’ve never seen anyone this good at baseball for this long,” Braun said. “I mean, maybe (Barry) Bonds in his prime. As great as (Mike) Trout is. I’ve seen (Albert) Pujols. I’ve never seen anyone this good for this long.”
Yelich began his day with a long drive into the second deck in right against Michael Wacha, tying the major league record for homers in consecutive games to start a season. He also became the first player to win the MVP award and then homer in his first four games of the next season.
“Candidly, I can’t recall a series like that,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “I’ve had some guys that are smoking hot against us, but I’ve never seen that kind of damage over four days.”
Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong homered for St. Louis, but Hicks (0-1) blew his first save opportunity of the season. Wacha struck out seven while pitching six innings of one-run ball.
The Cardinals got a scare in the ninth when Kolten Wong dove to steal second and got hit right below the left ear by Yasmani Grandal’s throw. Second baseman Mike Moustakas quickly signaled to the Cardinals’ dugout for help. Wong eventually got up and remained in the game.
Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes struck out 12 in five innings in his first major league start. But Burnes was hurt by the long ball.
DeJong connected for a two-run drive in the fourth, and Carpenter and Goldschmidt added consecutive homers in the fifth. Goldschmidt also went deep three times Friday night.
The Brewers got two back in the seventh. With two out and a runner on first, left-hander Andrew Miller came in to face Yelich and walked him. Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw then hit RBI singles before Miller struck out Jesus Aguilar swinging to end the threat.
Jacob Barnes (1-0) worked the ninth for the win.
Brewers: RHP Jeremy Jeffress (right shoulder weakness) pitched an inning in Arizona on Saturday and is scheduled to go again on Tuesday. If the rehab goes as planned, he’ll pitch at Triple-A San Antonio on Friday. “We’re ready to get him into games,” manager Craig Counsell said.
“He’s a good hitter,” Miller said of Yelich, who homered off him Friday night. “You can’t go to one spot. There’s no hole you can sit there and just go after and try to execute in one spot. You got to mix and match. It’s a game of chess and he got me.”
GOLDSCHMIDT SETS CARDS RECORD
Goldschmidt’s four homers are the most ever by a Cardinal in a series against the Brewers. Pujols (three times), Scott Rolen and Fernando Tatis hit three homers in a single series against Milwaukee.