Christian Yelich was already a National League MVP candidate before September, but with a scorching-hot final two weeks, the all-star outfielder might have cemented his case, helping the Milwaukee Brewers win the National League Central.
For his efforts, Yelich fell just shy of the first triple crown in the National League in 81 years to boot.
The Brewers spent the majority of the first half of the season in first place, but after the All-Star Game break have mostly trailed the Chicago Cubs, the two-time defending division champ. Milwaukee trailed Chicago by six games as late as Aug. 28, but won 22 of their last 29 games to force a one-game tiebreaker on Monday for both the NL Central title and the top seed in the National League playoffs.
The driving force has been Yelich, who was acquired by Milwaukee in the Miami Marlins’ purge of talent last winter. The 26-year-old is enjoying his best season, hitting .326/.402/.598 with a career-best 36 home runs. He leads the National League in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ (164) and total bases (343).
The Brewers won that tiebreaker on Monday, and Yelich was 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Since the break, Yelich is hitting .367/.449/.770 in 64 games, and down the stretch he has been nearly impossible to get out.
Over his last 13 games, Yelich is 21-for-43 with six home runs, five doubles and two triples. That’s 13 extra-base hits in just 12 games, and he’s driven in 21 runs while scoring 17 times. He walked 14 times, including all five times last Wednesday to finish off a sweep of the Cardinals, one of eight straight victories the Brewers finished the season with.
Yelich hit .488/.621/1.116 in his last 13 games, an extraordinary finishing kick that puts him on par with some of the great finishes in a pennant race in baseball history.
Great stretch runs in recent MLB history
|Carl Yastrzemski||Red Sox||1967||12||23-45||5||14||16||.523/.604/.955||1.558||1|
Perhaps the most famous stretch run was Carl Yastzremski in 1967 for the Impossible Dream Boston Red Sox. He hit .326/.418/.622 with 44 home runs and 121 RBI, hitting over .500 in his last 12 games to lead the Red Sox into the World Series. He won the triple crown, which was the last in baseball until Miguel Cabrera turned the trick in 2012.
The last National League batter to win the triple crown — leading his league in batting average, home runs, and RBI — was Joe Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1937.
Yelich entered Monday leading the National League in batting average (.323) with a sizeable advantage over second-place Scooter Gennett (.310), such that Yelich would have to go 0-for-24 against Chicago to lose the batting title. Yelich ended up hitting .326.
Yes, the stats from Monday’s tiebreaker game count, since this is technically a regular-season game. Here’s how close he came in the other categories:
Home runs: Yelich is tied for second with 36 home runs, one behind Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies, who will play his own tiebreaker game to settle the NL West later on Monday.
RBI: Yelich is second with 110 RBI, one ahead of Arenado and one behind Javier Baez of the Cubs.