‘Can’t happen:’ Christian Yelich’s no-hitter, three saves lead Brewers to Wrigley loss

CHICAGO — The exchange of the ball from glove to hand led to a missed opportunity.

That’s exactly what it’s been like for most of the past three months for the Milwaukee Brewers, too.

Christian Yelich’s hit on a shallow pop fly in the 10th inning that helped the Brewers to a 6-5 loss in 11 innings was something of a microcosm of the team’s play over a now extended period.

After starting the strongest 50-game start in franchise history at 32-18, Milwaukee found itself in a golden situation. Since then, however, brewers have failed to make the most of it. Time and time again, the team finds itself in tight, competitive games. As their record since that start – seven games under .500 – would show, the execution is often lacking in those moments.

It must have been a Saturday afternoon.

The Brewers offense was almost completely silent through 7 2/3 innings against Cubs starter Marcus Stroman. When they got the big hit, including a two-run homer off Willy Adames moments after Stroman left in the eighth, it was immediately given back.

Three times.

Without Yelich’s blunder in left field, the Brewers would have won, but it wasn’t the only reason they lost a game in which they had a save in each of the final three innings.

“I don’t really know what happened,” Yelich said. “I went to take it out of the glove and obviously I didn’t.”

As pitcher Aaron Ashby said in the aftermath of Friday’s 8-7 loss to the Chicago Cubs, the Brewers believe they are the better team of the two. The rating would show the same sentiment.

The results do not agree at all.

The Cubs have had their opponents’ number of late, and they’re not the only team buried in the NL Central standings that can say that. Against the bottom three teams in the division – Chicago, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh – Milwaukee has lost 11 of its last 14.

Box Score: Cubs 6, Brewers 5 (11 innings)

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And the latest may have been the most deflated.

Catcher Willson Contreras’ single in the bottom of the 11th sealed the 6-5 Chicago win, the Cubs’ sixth in the last seven games against the Brewers. It came after Devin Williams couldn’t hold on to a one-run lead in the ninth, a flurry of poor defensive execution allowed the Cubs to tie the game in the 10th and a pair of hits by Peter Strzelecki spelled disaster in the 11th.

It was the Brewers’ 11th loss since the trade deadline. Those losses totaled 20 series. Milwaukee is still .500 since the all-star break, doing its best to tread water in the wild-card standings, but it’s been quick hit after quick hit.

A team that was four games back in the division as recently as July 30 could find itself five games back with a win by the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night. Milwaukee, of course, still has time and entered the day just one game back of San Diego for the final wild-card spot, but it will need to reverse its trajectory from the last three months.

“This is where we are,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall a little bit and you have to respond. This is baseball season and this is our job moving forward.”

Williams struggled uncharacteristically after entering the ninth with a 3-2 lead thanks to Adams’ two-run homer in the eighth. A single walk to cap a 10-pitch plate appearance by Patrick Wisdom was the first sign of trouble. From there, it was a mix of fastball locating issues and the Cubs breaking pitches.

“They made me throw a lot of pitches,” Williams said. “They fought me pretty hard. There are no easy outs today. They made me work for it.”

With two outs, Williams walked Rafael Ortega, gave up a game-tying bloop single to Nick Madrigal with two strikes just over second baseman Wong’s outstretched glove.

“He fouled off some good pitches, good for him,” Williams said of Madrigal’s at-bat. “And he put a decent swing on a fastball and was able to get it inside.”

After Williams walked Willson Contreras, he ended his day on 37 pitches. Taylor Rogers relieved him and struck out Ian Happ trying to send the game into extras, where Mike Brosseau gave the Brewers a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th.

Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich can't catch the ball off the bat of Cubs' Seiya Suzuki during the fourth inning Saturday.

Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich can’t catch the ball off the bat of Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki during the fourth inning Saturday.

The Cubs tied the game with a key assist on Milwaukee’s defense in the bottom half. After Seiya Suzuki failed to advance inherited runner Ian Happ to open the inning, Happ stole third when Rogers ignored him at second.

That proved costly when Franmil Reyes hit a popup to shallow left that was gloved by Yelich. Happ appeared to be bluffing just one tag out of third, but Yelich fumbled the ball in the trade, allowing Happ to scamper home with ease.

“I wasn’t looking at Happ,” Yelich said. “I was just trying to get it out of my glove and get it to the plate. I didn’t know if it was going to run or not. I was catching it, grabbing it and either I’m going to plate it or ‘Wicho’ (Luis Urias) was the cut.

“It can’t happen. You can’t throw that ball right there. There’s nothing you can do about it now.”

Happ himself said he wasn’t even sure if he was going to attempt a field goal if Yelich made a clean shot. Counsell wasn’t so sure.

“No,” he said. “I think it stopped.”

If Happ hadn’t stolen third or Yelich hadn’t dropped the ball, the run would never have scored. right after Reyes’ ball, Nico Hoerner’s fly out to center ended the inning.

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Milwaukee regained a 5-4 lead on Wong’s RBI single in the top of the 11th, but the offense failed to pick up from there, stranding two runners in an inning after Andrew McCutchen grounded out with the bases loaded and two outs.

Wisdom doubled to lead off the second inning against rookie Strzelecki and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. With two outs and two hits, Contreras once again came through, lining a single to right to Rafael Ortega, who had been intentionally walked.

It wasn’t the only time Contreras hurt the Brewers. Freddy Peralta had his best start since returning from the injured list earlier this month, going six innings while allowing four hits and three walks with five strikeouts, but Contreras’ two-out, two-run homer in the fifth put a blemish on his line.

“I thought Freddy had a really good game. All in all, really good,” Counsell said. “We did everything well, it got us to six innings which is great. Definitely a good start.”

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Freddy Peralta reacts as he walks to the dugout after the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Freddy Peralta reacts as he walks to the dugout after the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.

Peralta’s counterpart was a tick better. Stroman faced 25 straight batters without allowing a base hit after Adames lined a single through the right side of the infield in the first inning. The next hit he allowed was his last, a two-out rocket of a single by Yelich in the eighth.

This year, the Brewers are hitting just .100 (6 for 60) against Stroman in three starts.

“What he does well is where the ball is down and it goes every which way,” Counsell said. “He goes in, away, down, so the ball is on the ground a lot. Against him you have to find some holes and we didn’t find holes. He stayed down and was really stubborn with the ball down.”

Cubs manager David Ross removed Stroman from the game after that. The drive failed when Adames sent a 3-1 fastball to left-center to make it 3-2, Milwaukee.

The Brewers rallied for a crucial victory after Matt Bush’s clean bottom of the eighth on the mound.

There was a win for the taking. They couldn’t find the handle on it.

“It was a tough game that we should have won,” Yelich said. “If I do my job, we’ll probably win this game.”

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This article originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Brewers suffer deflating loss to Cubs

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