You might have heard by now, but the Brewers are not going to the World Series. They managed to push the NLCS to a Game 7 but couldn’t close out the series at home and instead the Dodgers will go back to their second Fall Classic in as many years.
There wasn’t a single reason Milwaukee isn’t making their second World Series appearance ever and first since 1982, as in any series things add up that lead to being on the losing side. The Brewers went into the final game of the series with Jhoulys Chacin, Josh Hader, Corey Knebel, Joakim Soria, and Brandon Woodruff ready to go in clutch spots as needed. It should have all worked out.
They were at home, they had things set. Orlando Arcia continued to be a hot bat going 2-for-3 and they got baserunners against Walker Buehler early, including a home run from MVP-candidate Christian Yelich to put them on the board first. But then they failed to get more than one baserunner after Buehler left the game in the fifth (after getting six hits off of him) and their bullpen couldn’t keep things locked down and before you could blink it was 5-1 and the Dodgers were celebrating on their field.
So yes, things added up. But there’s a chance — a decent one — that if Christian Yelich played up to the standards of his MVP-caliber second half the other little things adding up wouldn’t have been quite enough to boil over. The Brewers might have been able to hang on one way or another if Yelich hadn’t all but disappeared from the series.
Yelich had such a rough NLCS it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that between the Division Series and the first game in Milwaukee he accidentally opened a mummy’s tomb and was immediately cursed.
He hit .173 for the series, going 5-for-28 with seven strikeouts over seven games. In the 13-inning Game 4 that the Brewers lost 2-1, Yelich went 1-for-5 with a strikeout and a walk. In a game where scoring chances were few and far between and runs even more so a hit or two from the probable NL MVP would have probably been helpful. Going into Game 5, he was hitting a woeful .150/.292/.150 with a .442 OPS.
He had a clutch double in Game 6 and came around to score, which seemed like it could be his breakout moment in a win that kept his team in the series. Earlier in the series, manager Craig Counsell spoke on Yelich’s struggles and releasing the pressure. He said,
“I think it’s just the case of a guy who is missing some pitches to hit. I don’t think that he’s worried about where he’s hitting in the lineup. He’s worried about getting a pitch to hit and squaring it up.
It’s a really small thing for Christian. He’s right there. And you just have to be patient. It sounds like a time that we don’t have time for patience but you have to trust that Christian is going to put good swings on the baseball, and I do.”
At the start of Game 7, he sure put the ball into play. A solo shot off of Buehler in the first inning gave the Brewers some confidence and the look of a team that could just keep rolling now that their star kicked things off the way they needed him to. But it turns out that home run was the part where you think you found a way out of the mummy’s tomb and see the light of an exit but whoops you’re actually in the main chamber now and the mummy is right behind you, sorry for the tease!
He would go 1-for-4 with a strikeout in the game and complete a series of being pretty much a non-factor. It didn’t help that Chris Taylor did this, robbing Yelich of a sure RBI double into left.
That’s just a mummy grabbing you by the ankle as soon as you reach a door and then sucking your soul from your body with no mercy. Just when you thought the nightmare was over you’re a soulless husk who will get an MVP plaque in a few weeks to make you feel better. But you won’t get your soul back.
We all know Yelich is a great player, he proved as much this season and in the early goings of the postseason. He came through in clutch moments, he pumped his team and the fans up, he never looked anything less than confident when he first stepped into the box each game. Confidence can only get you so far though, and for whatever reason — opposing pitchers, taking the wrong cuts, just being mentally off — Yelich couldn’t get over the hump.
That doesn’t take away from his eventual MVP win, or what the Brewers accomplished this season, or how incredibly fun it was to watch him level up this year after
escaping getting traded from Miami. With any luck, Yelich will be back in this spot at another point in his career and he’ll perform as everyone expects and his team will get even further in their postseason pursuits.
It’s a shame he didn’t do exactly that this series. It feels a little like it wasn’t fully the series we were promised between these players, with Yelich going toe-to-toe with Kershaw and Ryu and Buehler. He was an afterthought, and there’s no real way to tell if him getting hot would have had the Brewers in a different spot right now. The only thing that’s sure is that it’s a shame he had such a series after such an exciting few months.