MILWAUKEE — Christian Yelich regained his composure, then delivered one of his biggest hits of the season on Saturday.
Yelich and Omar Narváez hit back-to-back homers in the eighth inning and the Milwaukee Brewers beat Arizona 7-5 at American Family Field, handing the Diamondbacks their team-record 16th straight road loss.
Milwaukee has won 13 of its last 16 against Arizona dating to the start of the 2018 season, including the first three games of the current series. The Brewers are 11-3 against NL West opponents this season.
Yelich, slowed by injuries this year, led off the eighth with his third home run, tagging Joakim Soria (0-2) for a 6-5 lead. The former NL MVP connected after he stepped out of the batter’s box and walked toward the dugout after disagreeing with a second strike on an appeal to third base umpire Joe West.
Yelich had little to say about the call afterward.
“It’s part of the game,” he said.
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell credited Yelich for regaining his focus when he got back in the box.
“He laid off the next pitch and the got something he could handle,” Counsell said. “You have to put it behind you and stay in the present as much as you can.”
Narváez followed with his sixth home run of the season.
The Brewers have hit multiple home runs in four consecutive games for the first time since June 2019.
Devin Williams (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth and Josh Hader retired the side in order in the ninth for his 14th save in as many chances.
Josh Rojas hit two home runs for Arizona.
After failing to get a hit until the eighth inning on Friday night, the Diamondbacks jumped on top when Rojas led off the game with a home run to straightaway center off Brandon Woodruff. He hadn’t given up a run in either of his previous two starts covering a total of 14 innings.
In the fourth, Pavin Smith led off with a single and scored on Josh Reddick’s double to give Arizona a 2-0 lead.
“We got out to a lead and everything felt right,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said.
A day after chastising his team in the dugout for poor play, Lovullo praised his group’s effort on Saturday.
“These guys were very focused and engaged, that’s what makes it hurt,” he said.
The Brewers loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth against Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly before Willy Adames struck out and shortstop Nick Ahmed made a diving catch of Travis Shaw’s liner.
Daniel Vogelbach scored the Brewers’ first run on a passed ball and Tyrone Taylor followed with a two-run, bloop single to put Milwaukee in front 3-2.
Adames hit a two-run homer in the sixth as Milwaukee extended its lead to 5-2.
The Diamondbacks tied it in the seventh on a solo home run by Rojas and a two-run blast by Eduardo Escobar, his 14th of the season, off Brent Suter.
“I felt really good about the game today,” Rojas said. “We’re not playing bad every game.”
Woodruff gave up two runs and six hits while walking one and striking out nine. Woodruff threw 99 pitches as temperatures climbed into the low 90s.
“I wish every outing could be a quality start. That’s the goal, to pitch real deep,” Woodruff said. “But today, that’s a tough lineup. They stacked six lefties right off the bat. I didn’t really feel like I had my good stuff today but I was able to battle.”
Kelly retired the first eight Milwaukee batters until surrendering a single to Woodruff, who had been 0-for-20 with 14 strikeouts on the season. Kelly gave up four earned runs and six hits in six innings.
From the infirmary
Brewers left-hander Angel Perdomo, who is on the injured list with lower back tightness, is expected to begin playing catch on Sunday or Monday. Perdomo last appeared in a game on May 24.
Diamondbacks left-hander Caleb Smith (2-1, 3.32 ERA) is scheduled to start today’s series finale against Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes (2-4, 2.24), who has 81 strikeouts in 52⅓ innings.
Swinging away: Brewers maintain aggressive approach to roster building despite past strikeouts
January 2018: Signed Matt Albers to 2-year, $5 million contract
Albers was coming off a career-best season in which he went 7-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 63 appearances for the Nationals when Stearns signed him to help bolster a young bullpen.
Early on, the move looked brilliant as Albers posted a 1.93 ERA through his first 24 appearances. He got knocked around hard his next time out, allowing five earned runs in a loss to the Cubs that resulted in a stint on the injured list. He returned six weeks later but made only one appearance, allowing three runs, before landing back on the IL and posting a whopping 23.63 ERA in eight appearances after he returned in August.
Things didn't go much better in 2019, either. Albers posted a 5.13 in 67 games and became a free agent after the season but hasn't pitched in the big leagues since.
June 2018: Traded JiMan Choi for Brad Miller
Milwaukee signed Choi to a minor league deal to provide depth at first base and he forced his way onto the Opening Day roster by batting .409 with three home runs, 10 RBIs and a 1.245 OPS in 27 Cactus League games.
He became expendable when Jesus Aguilar, who also played his way onto the roster with a mammoth spring, seized the starting job at first after Eric Thames' injury. So Stearns dealt Choi to Tampa for Miller, who was hitting .256 with five home runs and 21 RBIs while playing both first base and the outfield.
"At this point we thought that the positional versatility and the infield experience that Miller brings would be helpful," Stearns said. "He will head to Triple A, and when we have a need, I'm sure he will be ready to contribute."
Miller appeared in just 27 games and batted .230 with two home runs and a .666 OPS before he was designated for assignment on July 28.
July 31, 2018: Traded for Jonathan Schoop
Stearns was reminded of one of his biggest busts Monday when Tigers infielder Jonathan Schoop put Milwaukee in a 1-0 hole with an RBI single off Corbin Burnes.
Stearns sent infielder Jonathan Villar and two prospects to Baltimore for Schoop at the trade deadline in 2018, despite having planned to shift Travis Shaw to second after Milwaukee acquired third baseman Mike Moustakas in an earlier deal.
By pairing the right-handed Schoop, who was hitting .244 with 17 home runs at the time of the deal, with Shaw, a left-handed slugger, Stearns thought he had the makings of a formidable tandem.
"Really, what it comes down to for us is we think we're getting better and we think we're adding to our overall depth," Stearns said at the time.
The move backfired as Schoop hit .202 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 46 games then went 0-for-8 in the playoffs leading Stearns to non-tender him after the season.
“Look, it was a bad deal, and that’s on me," Stearns said. "We made a trade for a player we thought was going to be here for basically a year and a half, and I was wrong.”
As for the players Stearns gave up in the deal, only Villar is in the big leagues this season. After batting .270 with 61 stolen bases and a .777 OPS in 216 games for the Orioles, he was traded to Miami in December 2019 and then to the Blue Jays at the deadline in 2020.
He signed with the Mets in February and is batting .231 in 41 games this season.
Dec. 20, 2019: Signed Justin Smoak to 1-year deal
Stearns opted against picking up a $7.5 million option to bring back Eric Thames and instead took a chance on switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak, whose power from the left side projected to play well at American Family Field, with the idea of him sharing time at first base with Ryan Braun.
The COVID-19 pandemic thwarted those plans, though. When the Brewers returned from their hiatus, Braun was shifted into the designated hitter role leaving first base to Smoak, who never got his bat going and was designated for assignment after batting .186 with five home runs and a .642 OPS in 33 games.
"You never completely know when it is the right time, especially in a season like this," Stearns said at the time. "There is some feel involved in this.
"Determining whether and the likelihood of a player snapping out of a slump is always a really tough judgment call. In this case, with the volume of playing time that Justin had to try to get this going and where we are in the season, we felt like it was the right time."
Smoak's release came just weeks after Stearns cut ties with utility man Brock Holt, who signed his own one-year deal early in Spring Training but was let go after he hit .100 in just 16 games.