As the Brewers’ push for a division title comes to a head on Sunday, Milwaukee slugger and MVP Candidate Christian Yelich will face another monumental task of his own as he makes a play for the National League Triple Crown. If he successfully tops the three requisite categories in the league — batting average, home runs, and RBI — he’ll be the first NL winner to be crowned in 81 years.
Entering Sunday’s series finale against the Tigers, Yelich currently leads NL batters with a .324 average and 36 home runs. The 26-year-old outfielder set a torrid pace during the second half of the season, slashing an incredible .364/.444/.776 with 25 home runs and a 1.220 OPS since the All-Star break. He put up another two home runs during Saturday’s 6-5 nail-biter against the Tigers, including a league-leading, go-ahead blast in the seventh that powered the Brewers to a much-needed win as they pulled even with the Cubs at the top of the NL Central.
In order to secure the Triple Crown, however, Yelich will need to come through with two more RBI during the club’s final game of the regular season. Following Saturday’s win, he boasts a total of 109, which is just shy of the 111 RBI Cubs’ slugger Javier Baez has racked up so far. Of course, there’s still a good chance Yelich might lose his advantage in another category, too, as the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter also enters Sunday’s season finale with 36 home runs under his belt and Rockies heavy-hitters Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story sit close behind with 35 apiece.
This is precisely what makes the batting Triple Crown such a rare award, and one that’s only been handed to 17 players over the last 140 years. The most recent player to achieve league-leading marks in all three categories was Tigers veteran infielder Miguel Cabrera, who did so with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs, and 139 RBI in 2012. American League players have historically dominated the award, with 10 winners to the National League’s six champions (Tip O’Neill, who led the league in 1887, played for the St. Louis Browns of the former American Association). The last NL batter to come away with a Triple Crown was Cardinals Hall of Fame outfielder Joe Medwick, who completed the feat with a .374 average, 31 home runs, and 154 RBI in 1937. A title for Yelich would not only make him the seventh-ever National League winner, but the first Brewers player to receive the honor as well.