One of the features that has made Matt Garza a consistently reliable starting pitcher year in and year out has been his control. Since becoming a regular starter in 2008, he has only once walked batters at a rate higher than 7.6 percent. Depending on the year, that’s average to slightly above-average control. Garza also doesn’t hit many batters: he entered tonight having hit two batters all season and has hit more than seven in only one season in his nine-year career.
It was odd but permissible when Garza hit McCutchen with a pitch in the third inning. It was hard to give Garza the same benefit of the doubt in the fifth inning, when he hit McCutchen again and was ejected, along with manager Ron Roenicke. Both benches were also warned. Garza seemed visibly upset at himself, punching his glove in frustration, but it’s hard to imagine a guy with his experience and control could accidentally double his season total in HBP’s in one outing.
Marco Estrada took the mound in Garza’s stead. Garza finished with 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out six.
This is not the first time McCutchen has been at the center of a beanball war. Diamondbacks pitcher Randall Delgado fired a fastball at McCutchen’s back on August 2, which was revenge for Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri hitting Paul Goldschmidt and breaking his finger the previous day.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.