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Brewer meets key test – Keeping playoff hopes alive without Yelich

Terrible news from Miami, where the Milwaukee Brewers beat Miami Marlins 4-3, but announced after the game that Christian Yelich will miss the rest of the season after snapping a lap bowl on a foul ball in the first round. The Freak injury came on a 1-1 slider from Elieser Hernandez as Yelich fouled from the top of his right knee. He crumpled to the ground and lay there for a few minutes before leaving under his own power, but grimaced in pain as he retreated into the clubhouse.

It's a devastating injury to the Brewers, who not only loses his best player, but a player who had a chance to win his second MVP award in the National League in a row, as Yelich's season ends with him dropping .329 / .429 / .671

with 44 home runs and 30 stolen bases. His combination of hitting with power, hitting on average and theft on the bases has made him one of the most exciting players in the sport over the past two seasons, an obvious fan favorite in Milwaukee but also one of the game's faces as a superstar slugger.

The Brewers started two games behind the Chicago Cubs for the second wild-card berth, pushing for the winning run in the top of the ninth. Trent Grisham, Yelich's replacement in the lineup, contributed a key double. With closer Josh Hader unavailable, Drew Pomeranz worked around two hits in the bottom of the ninth for his first save.

General manager David Stearns commented after the game about the crushing loss:

Lorenzo Cain also commented that he lost his field mate:

Brewers are already playing with an injury-prone lineup. Standout rookie second baseman Keston Hiura, second on the team in the OPS, has been out since August 30 with a hamstring strain. Mike Moustakas, who pinches here on Tuesday, has had seven flat performances since August 26 due to a wrist injury. Cain (knee) and Ryan Braun (back) have played through injuries.

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Somehow the Brewers have still won five in a row – including the last three games of a four-game series against the Cubs – and eight of their previous 10. There are no a lot of comfort here, but Yelich has missed time this year with recurring back problems and the Brewers are 10-7 when he doesn't start (11-7 if you count Tuesday's win). The Brewers also have the easiest remaining schedule for the NL playoff contenders since they only have one series left against a playoff challenger (this weekend in St. Louis). They have two more games in Miami and, after the Cardinals series, they end with the Padres, Pirates, Reds and Rockies.

Still, a provisional arrangement will now be even more provisional. Travis Shaw started at third base on Tuesday, hitting .151. Cory Spangenberg started in second place and he has a .273 OBP. Hernan Perez played shortstop and he has a .276 OBP. Cain is hitting .253 / .321 / .353. Without their MVP candidate, and minus Hiura and Moustakas, you have to wonder where the runs come from. At least the Brewers have a depth in the outfield with Grisham – who has hit .263 / .324 / .455 in 33 games – and Ben Gamel, but they won't come close to Yelich's production.

However, this Brewers team has found a way to overcome adversity. Last year, they won their last seven games and nine of their last 10 to force a tie with the Cubs for the NL Central title and then beat the Cubs in the tiebreaker game. This year, they have had to overcome the fight and injuries in the rotation. Jhouly's Chacin, who started the tiebreaker game a year ago, went from ace staff to being released at the end of August with a 5.79 ERA. Brandon Woodruff, their best starter this season, has been out since July 21 with an oblique injury. Corbin Burnes would be an important part of the rotation, but he is 1-5 with a 9.00 ERA. Then there is reliever Jeremy Jeffress, an All-Star last season who was also recently relieved.

In some way, the brewers have struggled through all this and remained in the playoffs. They will need Grisham or Braun or Eric Thames to get rolling. They need as soon as possible. Manager Craig Counsell showed restraint by not using Hader on Tuesday after pitching Saturday and Sunday against the kids, but he will probably have the dominant left riding a little harder the last two-plus weeks.

On paper, Brewers have little chance. They have been outscored this season, their best players are down, they have land to make up and precious little time left. But don't figure them out:

As they say, in baseball anything can happen.

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