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On the heroes of September

Regardless of what happens from here on out, this is a run we’ll never forget.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Milwaukee Brewers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

“I think he’s more talented than I was.”

- Robin Yount, on Christian Yelich

Here’s the scene:

Another must-win game. The Chicago Cubs have already lost to the Cardinals, 2-1, opening the door for the Milwaukee Brewers to move into a tie for first place in the NL Central. The game at hand against the Detroit Tigers is tied in the 7th inning, 5-5. With one out, Christian Yelich steps up to the plate. He’s already hit one home run in the game, a two-run blast in the third inning. Lefty Daniel Stumpf, pitching for Detroit, gets a slider over for a called strike one. His next pitch is another slider, this one up in the zone at 84 MPH:

Milwaukee held on for the 6-5 victory, drawing even with the Cubs for the top record in the National League at 94-67 with one game remaining in the 2018 regular season. That the Brewers would be in this position was nearly unthinkable just a few short weeks ago; the club had slipped to third place in the division and were sitting 5.0 games back of the northsiders on September 1st. But no team on the Senior Circuit has been hotter during the final month of the season, as the Brew Crew has reeled off 18 wins in 25 contests and is currently in the midst of a six-game streak. If our Menomonee Valley Nine can successfully close out the run to what would be the fourth division title in franchise history, much of the credit will be owed to the exploits of Yelich.

Christian has come up to bat 110 times in September, during which time he’s batted .360/.500/.860. Yelich has reached base 55 times in 25 games. He’s whiffed only 13 times, has walked on 22 occasions. Christian has bashed 10 homers and driven in 33 runs, more than any other hitter in baseball. His outrageous - and league-leading - 243 wRC+ in September is 33 points better than the man in 2nd place, Mike Trout.

Yelich has really turned on the jets during in the past week. In the last seven days, he’s hitting .444/.655/1.444 in 29 plate appearances, which translates to a 2.100 OPS and 379 wRC+. He’s launched five dingers in six games and driven in 16 runs. Yelich has whiffed just thrice while walking 10 times, including in all five of his plate appearances during the series finale against St. Louis. In his last 14 trips to bat, Yelich has gone:

Homer, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, homer, walk, walk, strikeout, walk, homer, strikeout, homer.

Yelich’s late-season surge has not only vaulted him to the top of the National League MVP conversation, but also has him within reach of the National League’s first Triple Crown since 1937. Christian has all but wrapped up the first batting title in franchise history, with his .324 average sitting 14 points ahead of the closest challengers. His two long balls last night tied him with Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals for the league lead at 36. Yelich’s 109 RBI rank second in the NL, just two behind the Cubs’ Javier Baez.

No batter in baseball has produced more fWAR than Yelich’s 2.4 during the month of September, but he’s far from the only hero that deserves recognition for Milwaukee’s improbable run up to the playoffs. Ryan Braun, invigorated by pennant chase, has found a way to channel his prior form from the 2008 and 2011 races. The Hebrew Hammer owns a 143 wRC+ during the month of September, and he’s mashed five dingers of his own in the last week, including two multi-homer games. Travis Shaw’s .190 average in September won’t jump off the page, but he’s reached base at a .392 clip during the final month, has four homers, and has a handful of clutch hits under his belt.

On the pitching side of things, neither Corey Knebel nor Jeremy Jeffress have allowed a run in September. Rookies Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes have both thrived while getting the call in some crucial spots. The team has won all four starts made by August deadline addition Gio Gonzalez, who sports a 2.66 ERA in 20.1 innings before getting the ball in today’s must-win game 162. On the whole, not a pitching staff in baseball has prevented runs at a stingier rate than Milwaukee’s 2.88 ERA in the season’s final month.

There have been 161 regular seasons contests completed in 2018, but the playoff fates of four National League teams - the Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, and Rockies - have yet to be decided. Regardless of the outcomes of today’s games (and a potential game #163 tomorrow), our Milwaukee Brewers have treated us to one of the most memorable runs in the history of the franchise. An old hero has stepped up in an attempt to recapture his long-ago glory, and a new generation of Brewers - led by the remarkable Christian Yelich - have risen to the occasion and elevated their performances with the stakes at their highest.

We don’t know for sure what is going to happen today, tomorrow, or during our beloved local nine’s first playoff appearance in seven years. But we do know that we’ll never forget the amazing moments that the Milwaukee Brewers have already provided us down the stretch in 2018.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs