With one swing of the bat, Christian Yelich changed the narrative Monday night.
After the Milwaukee Brewers had scratched and clawed their way to a pair of runs, Yelich provided the long ball that had been glaringly absent to this point, a majestic grand slam out to the right that highlighted a 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at American Family Field.
The homer was the first of the season for Yelich and just the sixth for the Brewers (6-5), whose season narrative to date has been more about its continuing offensive ineptitude than anything.
Yelich’s slam came in the fourth inning and with Milwaukee having just snapped a 1-1 tie with Pirates right-hander Zach Thompson on the mound.
Omar Narváez singled with one out, Lorenzo Cain doubled and Jace Peterson walked to load the bases, and Narváez tagged and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Kolten Wong.
Willy Adames, up next, drew a free pass from Thompson to bring Yelich to the plate.
Having already walked and doubled, Yelich turned on Thompson’s second offering, an 85.5 mph changeup, and drilled it 429 feet out to the right for his fourth grand slam and first homer since Sept. 24 of last season.
Interestingly, it came with his close confidant and former Brewers hitting coach, Andy Haines, now filling that same role with the Pirates after being fired by Milwaukee in the offseason.
Box score:Brewers 6, Pirates 1
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Wong and Adames singled on the first two pitches of the game, with Wong scoring on a wild pitch during Yelich’s first plate appearance to get the Brewers out to a quick 1-0 lead.
But after Yelich walked, Andrew McCutchen, Rowdy Tellez and Hunter Renfroe all struck out as the offense failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to break the game open early.
Eric Lauer allowed a couple hits and a walk – to former Brewer Daniel Vogelbach – over the first three innings before a weird sequence in the fourth when he drilled Diego Castillo in the knee with a pitch only to see Castillo offer at the pitch and be called for a strike.
After hobbling around for a bit Castillo got back into the batter’s box and sent Lauer’s next pitch in a 1-2 count over the wall in right for his first career homer, tying the game at 1-1.
Lauer lasted six innings, allowing five hits, a run and a walk with five strikeouts over 87 pitches.
Jandel Gustave, Hoby Milner and José Ureña each pitched a scoreless inning of relief behind Lauer to finish the game.
The Brewers have scored six runs in consecutive games but managed only one baserunner – via a walk – in the four innings following Yelich’s grand slam.