Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, the defending National League MVP who was in the running to repeat for the award, fractured his right kneecap in the first inning of Milwaukee’s 4-3 win against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.
He is out for the season.
Brewers general manager David Stearns told reporters Yelich would be flown back to Milwaukee Wednesday to undergo further testing. They are unclear if surgery is required.
“I think first and foremost, we feel awful for Christian,” Stearns said. “This is a guy who has carried us in a number of ways over the last two years. He could have been two-and-a-half weeks away from a repeat Most Valuable Player. That’s where our thoughts go first. From a team perspective, we have a lot of guys in that clubhouse that will hurt tonight. This is a gut punch for a night — and then we need to recover.”
The injury occurred after he fouled a 79.8 mph slider from Marlins starting pitcher Elieser Hernandez. Yelich remained on the ground for several minutes before being helped off the field. He left the field under his own power but with a limp.
From a team standpoint, Yelich’s injury is a heavy hit for a Brewers team still in the playoff hunt. Milwaukee, at 76-68, is one-and-a-half games out of the National League’s second wild card spot after Tuesday.
And Yelich has been their anchor offensively.
Yelich entered Tuesday’s game leading Major League Baseball with a 1.102 on-base plus slugging mark (commonly referred to as OPS) while sitting third overall in batting average (.330) and tied for third in home runs (44).
“Honestly awful,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Obviously we all know Yeli and what kind of guy he is, but you hate to see a player like that getting hurt down the stretch. He stepped into just a superstar realm of a player. ... You don’t want to see that happen.”
The Marlins traded Yelich to the Brewers in January 2018 for four prospects: Isan Diaz, Lewis Brinson, Jordan Yamamoto and Monte Harrison. All but Harrison have made their MLB debut over the past two seasons.
Before the trade, Yelich was a four-year starter for the Marlins, who selected him 23rd overall in the 2010 MLB Draft.
“I feel so bad — not just for him as a player and us as friends. It’s bad for baseball,” Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “Losing a player like him — an MVP candidate again — at this time of the year when they’re trying to make the playoffs and compete for a championship, it’s really bad. For it to happen against us, it hurts a little bit more. Hopefully, Yelich can bounce back. Hopefully, it’s nothing really, really bad that he has to miss a long time. I’m pretty positive Yelich is going to be back on the field soon.”
Trent Grisham, a rookie who went 5 for 6 in the series opener on Monday, stepped in for Yelich to finish the first-inning at-bat and remained in the game in right field.
“We saw it. We heard it. It was loud,” Diaz said. “As soon as we saw him when he couldn’t stand up, we knew it. He’s hurt. I’ve been there. I know what that feels like. It’s not a good feeling. I wish him the best of luck, and hopefully he gets back soon.”