MIAMI — Mike Moustakas celebrated his 31st birthday in style.
He homered twice, including a tiebreaking, two-run shot in the ninth inning as the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Miami Marlins 7-5 Wednesday night in their first game following star outfielder Christian Yelich’s season-ending injury.
“Obviously two homers is pretty cool no matter what day it is but on your birthday it’s pretty special,” Moustakas said. “But even more so is the win, especially with Yeli going down. Everyone has to step up even more.”
The Brewers won their sixth in a row and tied the Chicago Cubs for the second NL wild card spot after the Cubs fell 4-0 at San Diego.
“We just have to keep that rolling into tomorrow and see where we are after that,” Moustakas said.
Yelich, the reigning National League MVP, broke his right kneecap in Tuesday night’s game when he fouled a ball off himself. He returned to Milwaukee earlier Wednesday for additional tests.
“It hurts a lot to lose him but at the end of the day we have to go out and find ways to win,” Moustakas said.
Trent Grisham, one of the outfielders expected to get additional playing time in Yelich’s absence, led off the game with a home run.
It was 5-all when Moustakas drove a fastball from Miami reliever Jose Urena (4-9) into the upper deck in right-center field for his 33rd homer. Urena retired the first two hitters before he walked Yasmani Grandal.
Moustakas returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 2 after recovering from a sprained left wrist. He hit a three-run homer off starter Pablo Lopez in the third put Milwaukee ahead 4-2.
“Great to have him back in the lineup,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s obviously going to be very important as we move on here.”
Brent Suter (2-0) pitched three innings of scoreless relief for the win. Josh Hader struck out the side in the ninth for his 30th save.
An RBI single by Zach Davies put Milwaukee ahead 5-2 in the fourth.
For the third consecutive game, a Milwaukee starter was lifted with a lead before finishing the fifth. Alex Claudio relieved Davies with one out in the fifth and allowed Isan Diaz’s two-run homer. Jay Jackson came in after Claudio’s one-batter outing and gave up Garrett Cooper’s tying solo homer.
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Davies scattered three runs, four hits, struck out three and walked two.
Lopez outlasted Davies, pitching five innings, allowing five runs and five hits. The right-hander struck out two and walked four.
“When you’re always behind in the count, you don’t have as many options where to go, how to approach every situation,” Lopez said.
Magneuris Sierra’s RBI single in the second gave the Marlins their first lead of the series at 2-1. Sierra drove in Harold Ramirez, who reached on a leadoff triple.
Patience pays off
Grandal walked four times, none more crucial than when reached in the ninth, allowing Moustakas the opportunity for his winning shot. The catcher-first baseman has 95 walks in the season.
“When Yas is up there, he is not going to chase,” Counsell said. “He gave us a shot. It’s just discipline and stubbornness. It’s a very valuable trait.”
Keeping it short
Davies continued a trend common of short starts by Brewers’ pitchers throughout the season and displayed prominently in the first three games against Miami. The right-hander’s outing followed Chase Anderson’s four-inning stint on Tuesday and Lyles’ 4⅓-inning start Monday. Lyles was the last Brewers’ pitcher to last seven innings in his start against Texas Aug. 11.
From the infirmary
Brewers second baseman Keston Huira (left hamstring strain) is expected to pinch hit in the weekend series at St. Louis, Counsell said.
Brewers left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 3.98) will start the series finale on Thursday afternoon. Of his last 10 starts, Gonzalez has factored in one decision. The Marlins plan to send out left-hander Caleb Smith (8-9, 4.11), who has lost five of his last six decisions.