NEW YORK (AP) – The Milwaukee Brewers have scored 81 runs in the first inning this season, more than any team in baseball. That’s not exactly a fluke. In fact, it’s by design.
Travis Shaw hit a three-run drive in the opening frame and the Brewers went on to lengthen their surprising lead in the NL Central, topping the New York Yankees 5-3 Sunday.
“A lot of starters settle in after the first inning and we’ve kind of taken that same approach with every pitcher,” Shaw said. “Try to jump on them early and grab the momentum and then work on it after that. We’ve been a really good first-inning team.”
The Brewers have won nine of 11. At 50-41, manager Craig Counsell’s club went into the All-Star break in first place for the fifth time in franchise history, 5 1/2 games ahead of the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs and St. Louis.
“We put ourselves in a good spot to enjoy the break,” Counsell said.
The Yankees (45-41) have not won a series since June 9-11 and are 3 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the AL East.
New York had chances to rally, but couldn’t do much with runners in scoring position.
“You go 1 for 16, it’s pretty hard to win a game,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Milwaukee scored early off Masahiro Tanaka (7-8), who was charged with five runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings.
Jonathan Villar and Eric Thames led off the game with consecutive singles. Following a strikeout, Shaw crushed a full-count slider 449 feet, according to MLB Statcast, beyond the Yankees’ bullpen for his 19th home run and a 3-0 advantage.
“We’ve just been excellent in the first inning,” Counsell said. “This game’s easier to play from the lead. There’s no doubt. It sets up the bullpen better, gives the starter some breathing room and some confidence.”
Stephen Vogt added a solo homer in the second, his fourth since being plucked off waivers from Oakland two weeks ago.
“We like where we’re at,” Vogt said. “I think we’re all excited to have the break, but excited to come back and get it going again and make a push.”
Jimmy Nelson (8-4) pitched five-plus innings of three-run ball. Corey Knebel notched a four-out save, his 14th in 18 opportunities.
On Saturday, Knebel gave up a three-run homer to Clint Frazier in the ninth that rallied the Yankees to victory.
“It’s big for us to win, of course,” Knebel said. “You won a series, especially against the Yankees and going into the half.”
Frazier homered for the Yankees, the rookie’s second shot in as many days and his third in just seven games since his debut.
Chase Headley’s bid for a go-ahead, three-run homer in the sixth was taken away after a replay reversal.
Brewers right fielder Domingo Santana saved a potential game-tying hit off the bat of Gary Sanchez in the seventh, lunging while on the run to snag a hard liner.
Milwaukee has homered in six straight games and in 24 of its last 26. Its 138 home runs are second in the majors to Houston.
Brewers: OF Ryan Braun (left calf tightness) did not play after leaving Saturday’s game early. “We’re going to be cautious with it today, obviously,” Counsell said. “I’m pretty optimistic that when we’re starting on Friday he’ll be in there.” … RHP Wily Peralta (strained right calf) struggled on Saturday night in his second rehab outing for Triple-A Colorado Springs, allowing six runs (five earned) in one-third of an inning. Peralta will need at least two more rehab appearances before the team decides on the best course forward.
Yankees: DH Matt Holliday (viral infection) played in his second rehab game for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday, finishing 1 for 4 with an RBI. The team expects to activate him from the 10-day disabled list on Friday. … 2B Starlin Castro (strained right hamstring) could also return Friday. He was replaced on the AL All-Star team due to the injury but will still attend the game. Castro will then play a rehab game or two over the break. … The club is hopeful that OF Aaron Hicks (right oblique strain) can resume baseball activities toward the end of the upcoming road trip, and then begin taking batting practice when they return home on July 25. … 1B Tyler Austin (strained right hamstring) is still a ways off from returning, according to Girardi. … LHP CC Sabathia threw live batting practice in an effort to keep him fresh, Girardi said.
Brewers: Knebel will be Milwaukee’s lone representative in Miami. Following the break, the Brewers will host last-place Philadelphia for a three-game set beginning on Friday night. RHP Zach Davies (10-4, 4.90 ERA) will start the series opener for Milwaukee.
Yankees: Aaron Judge and Sanchez will compete in Monday night’s Home Run Derby at Marlins Park. The duo will also suit up for the American League on Tuesday in the All-Star Game alongside teammates Dellin Betances, Luis Severino and Castro. After the break, the Yankees head to Boston for four games, including a day-night doubleheader on Sunday.