Posted on September 11, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Milwaukee Brewers won their fifth straight game on Tuesday night, closing to within one game of the Cubs for the second Wild Card spot in the National League. But they also might have been the biggest losers in the Wild Card race Tuesday night. In the first inning of Tuesday’s win, reigning MVP Christian Yelich suffered a broken right knee cap when he fouled a ball off his knee. After the game, the Brewers announced that the injury will cause Yelich to miss the rest of the season, a devastating blow to the Brew Crew in a tight playoff race.
We don’t have a definitive time frame, other than we know he’ll be out for the remainder of the season,” Brewers GM David Stearns said Tuesday night. “We also don’t know whether surgery is required. He’ll need some further diagnostic imaging tomorrow in Milwaukee then meet with our doctors and we’ll plot a plan going forward.”
After winning MVP honors last season, Yelich was once again the top contender for the award this year. His season will end with him hitting .329 with an OPS of 1.100. He had already set a career-high with 44 home runs and was also in contention to be this year’s National League home run leader. More importantly, his injury is a terrible loss for the Brewers, who must now find a way to finish the playoff race without their best player.
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“First and foremost, we feel awful for Christian. This is a guy who’s carried us in a number of ways over the last two years,” said Stearns. “From a team perspective, we’ve got a lot of guys in that clubhouse who will hurt tonight. This is a gut punch for a night and then we need to recover and play really strong baseball.”
Realistically, it’ll be impossible for the Brewers to replace Yelich’s productivity. He’s also a reliable defensive right fielder. Nevertheless, the Brewers will have to put somebody in right field moving forward. Rookie and former first-round pick Trent Grisham may get most of the reps in right field moving forward. He hit .300 with an OPS of 1.010 in the minors this year. Since being called up to the majors in early August, Grisham is hitting .263 with an OPS of .779.
Ben Gamel is another option in right field. He has a little more experience than Grisham but has a little less upside offensively. The Brewers could also consider pushing Eric Thames to right field and having Tyler Austin and Cory Spangenberg share duties at first base. However, neither Austin or Spangenberg has produced much offensively this year, so it’ll likely come down to either Grisham or Gamel and the Brewers hoping one of them can get hot late in the year.
“We battled to a win and that’s what we’re gonna have to do the rest of the year is just find ways to do it,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after Tuesday’s game. “Guys are gonna have to step up, guys are gonna take on bigger roles, and we’ve got a lot of guys doing good things right now, and that’s how we’re gonna have to win games.”
With 18 games left to play, the Brewers aren’t in a bad position. They are just one game behind the Cubs and 3.5 games behind the Nationals in the Wild Card standings. However, the Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mets are all within three games of Chicago. That means six teams are currently battling for two Wild Card spots. Before the injury to Yelich, none of those six teams had much margin for error during the final weeks of the season. After losing their best player and MVP candidate, Milwaukee’s margin for error for reaching the postseason just got a lot smaller.