Vlad joins the 400-homer club

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This season has mostly been a forgettable one for Vladimir Guerrero, who’s posting career-worst numbers at the plate and has missed 57 of 110 games with various injuries. However, he’s been on fire since returning from the disabled list last week, raising his OPS by 60 points in just seven games, and hit a pair of long balls last night to join the 400-homer club.
Guerrero is two-thirds of the way into his age-34 season and his 400 homers rank 24th all time through the age of 34, putting him in striking distance of Ernie Banks (404), Carlos Delgado (407), and Reggie Jackson (410). Alex Rodriguez is the leader in homers through age 34 with 574, which is amazing given that he’s only 33 years old. He has another 200 or so games to increase his lead over Sammy Sosa (539), Jimmie Foxx (527), Babe Ruth (516), Hank Aaron (510), and Willie Mays (505).
Much has been made of the 500-homer milestone losing its luster as power numbers exploded in recent years, but Guerrero is a good example of why going deep 500 times is still really, really hard. He’s been in the majors since the age of 22, has played in over 90 percent of his team’s games, produced at least 25 homers each season from 1998 to 2008, ranked among the league’s top 10 in homers seven times … and still has “only” 400 with six weeks remaining in his age-34 season.
Guerrero may seem like a pretty safe bet to smack another 100 homers, but then again he has just eight this season, appears to be deteriorating physically, turns 35 years old in February, and hasn’t homered 30 times since 2006. Can he bounce back with 25 homers next season and then go deep another 25 times in 2011 and 2012? If so, he’ll still need 20-25 homers as a 38-year-old in 2013. Five-hundred remains a very big number.

Brewers hold off the Dodgers to force Game 7 of the NLCS

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Down 3-2 in the NLCS, the Brewers faced a must-win situation during Game 6 on Friday. Any residual uncertainty they might have felt about their chances of extending the series was all but resolved in the first inning, however, when Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas, and Erik Kratz combined for a four-run spread to take an early lead. Powered by those early-game RBI, as well as masterful performances from Wade Miley, Corey Knebel, and Corbin Burnes, the club surged to a 7-2 win to pull even with the Dodgers and force a Game 7 tiebreaker.

Left-hander Wade Miley trounced the Dodgers in 4 1/3 innings of two-run, four-strikeout ball. He was bested by David Freese in the very first at-bat of the night, which culminated with a 402-footer to right field to put Los Angeles on the board, 1-0. After a few scoreless innings from the Dodgers, Freese returned to torment Miley in the top of the fifth, this time with an RBI double that narrowed the Brewers’ advantage from four runs to three.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for opposing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the bottom of the first inning, Ryu allowed a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, followed by a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun. Jesús Aguilar came up to bat with two out and two on, then smacked a two-RBI line drive double to right field. Moustakas and Kratz went back-to-back-to-back with Aguilar, putting up another three runs on an RBI double and single, respectively.

The Brewers kept rolling in the second inning. Christian Yelich and Braun each collected a double off of Ryu, bringing Milwaukee’s lead to 5-1 over Los Angeles. Braun advanced to third on a Travis Shaw groundout, but with Aguilar up to bat, Ryu wasn’t going to chance a repeat of the Dodgers’ first-inning debacle. He intentionally walked Aguilar, then whiffed Moustakas on three straight fastballs to cap the inning.

By the time both Miley and Ryu were forced from the mound, the Brewers stood 5-2 above their opponents. Right-hander Corey Knebel worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, striking out Manny Machado to eliminate another potential rally from the Dodgers in the fifth inning and retiring all four batters in the sixth (save for Joc Pederson, who reached base after taking a 96.3-MPH fastball to the wrist). The righty received another significant opportunity to do some damage against the Dodgers in the bottom of the fifth, when he came up to bat for the first time in his professional career with the bases loaded and two outs… but saw just four pitches before swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

After Ryu’s unexpected departure in the third, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts cycled through five pitchers — Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Kenta Maeda — in an attempt to squelch the Brewers’ comeback. The bullpen combined for four consecutive scoreless frames, but was ultimately foiled in the seventh, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, a wild pitch from Maeda ricocheted off the front of home plate and allowed Aguilar to plate yet another insurance run. Still not content with a two-hit, two-RBI performance, Aguilar came back in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single — only moments after a failed double play that would have ended the inning — to bring the Brewers to a cushy 7-2 advantage as they entered the ninth.

No similar last-minute rallies awaited the Dodgers there. Rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes orchestrated another flawless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, retiring Pederson and Puig with consecutive strikeouts and inducing a game-inning, series-extending pop-up from Matt Kemp to wrap the win.

Game 7 is set for 8:09 PM EDT on Saturday. The starters for both clubs have yet to be announced.