Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 12, 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 50 of 55 OCT. 12, 2019 51 IRISH IN THE PROS BY ANDREW MENTOCK D espite losing his team's best player — reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich — Sept. 10, Milwau- kee Brewers manager Craig Counsell led his squad to the MLB postseason as the second NL wild-card team with a regular-season record of 89-73. Yelich was arguably having a better season this year than during his 2018 MVP campaign. He led the National League in batting (.329), on-base per- centage (.429), slugging percentage (.671) and OPS (1.100), and slugged a career-high 44 homers. After Yelich suffered a fractured kneecap, Counsell made sure to meet with his players in the following days to let them know that their season was not lost. "I think Craig understands when it is appropriate to deliver a message," Brewers general manager David Stea- rns told The Athletic. "He has a good feel for when his voice should be heard or when players can take care of it themselves or when other voices need to be heard. "At the appropriate time, he made sure his voice was heard." Counsell guided Milwaukee to 13 wins in its next 15 games to secure a playoff spot. That surge helped the Brewers go 20-7 in September to erase a 5.5-game deficit to the Chicago Cubs in the NL wild-card race. Along the way, the Brewers — led by their bull- pen — posted an MLB-best 3.01 ERA in September and received key con- tributions from rookies Keston Hiura and Trent Grisham. Milwaukee played at Washington in the do-or-die NL wild card game Oct. 1. The resilient Brewers built an early 3-0 lead with a pair of home runs off Nationals ace Max Scherzer, but dropped a heartbreaker when an error by Grisham in the bottom of the eighth inning allowed the winning run to score during a three-run rally in a 4-3 defeat. "These baseball seasons are sacred," Counsell told the assembled media after the tough defeat. "You think that you don't get many of them, and you don't get many chances like this. "I'm so proud of the way we battled and the urgency that we played with and how together we became — bet- ter than anybody thought we could be." Over the last three seasons, Coun- sell has led the Brewers to an average of 90 wins with a .559 winning per- centage while posting one division title and two playoff berths. All told, he has posted a 405-381 record (.515 winning percentage) since taking over as the Brewers' manager during the 2015 season. IRISH IN MLB Final Regular-Season Stats • John Axford (Played at Notre Dame from 2002-05), RHP, Toronto Blue Jays: Did not pitch this season due to a stress reaction in his right elbow and underwent surgery to remove a bone spur in August … Will become a free agent soon, but it's unclear if a team will sign him until they get a chance to see him throw. • Cavan Biggio (2014-16), 2B, Toronto Blue Jays: Made his major league debut May 24 … Hit .234 with 16 homers, 48 RBI and five steals while seeing action in 100 contests … Notched his first career MLB cycle Sept. 17 against the Orioles, 17 years after his father — Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio — hit for one … It marked only the second time a father- son duo has hit for the cycle. • Trey Mancini (2011-13), 1B/OF, Baltimore Ori- oles: Played in 154 of the Orioles' contests and saw time at designated hitter, first base, right field and left field … Hit .291 with 35 home runs and 97 RBI for, perhaps, the best statistical season a former Notre Dame baseball player has had in MLB … The next closest might be A.J. Pollock's 2015 season when he hit .315 with 20 home runs and finished 14th in the NL MVP vote. • David Phelps (2006-08), RHP, Chicago Cubs: Returned to action June 17 after completing his recovery from Tommy John surgery … Made 17 appearances (one start) with the Blue Jays and compiled a 3.63 ERA in 17 1 ⁄3 innings before being traded to the Cubs July 30 … In Chicago, he was 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings over 24 relief outings. • A.J. Pollock (2007-09), OF, Los Angeles Dodg- ers: Sidelined in late April due to a right elbow infection and did not return until July 12 … Played in 86 contests and batted .266 with 15 homers and 47 RBI … The Dodgers went 106-66 to clinch home- field advantage in the National League playoffs, and will face the Washington Nationals in a best- of-five Division Series that started Oct. 3. • Jeff Samardzija (2003-06), RHP, San Francisco Giants: Made 32 starts for San Francisco … Posted an 11-12 record with a 3.52 ERA and struck out 140 batters in 181 1 ⁄3 innings. ✦ Craig Counsell Overcomes Setback To Lead Brewers Back To MLB Playoffs Counsell, a 1992 Notre Dame graduate and the fifth-year manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, guided his young team to a postseason berth in 2019 despite losing reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich to injury in early September. PHOTO COURTESY MILWAUKEE BREWERS Notre Dame In The NFL: Week 4 Highlights • Miles Boykin (Played at Notre Dame from 2015-18), WR, Baltimore Ravens: Reeled in three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown in the 3-1 Ravens' 40-25 loss to the Browns … His longest reception of the day was for 18 yards, and he made a diving catch in the middle of the end zone for his touchdown … For the season, has five receptions for 48 yards and two scores. • Quenton Nelson (2014-17), OL, Indianap- olis Colts: Named to the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for his performance in the 2-2 Colts' 31-24 loss to the Raiders … Per PFF, he allowed three hurries with no sacks or hits on the quarterback in 54 pass-blocking snaps, and earned an 83.1 run-blocking grade. • Jerry Tillery (2015-18), DT, Los Angeles Chargers: Played 50 percent of the defensive snaps and registered half a sack — the first of his career — among his two tackles in the Chargers' 30-10 win over the Dolphins … For the season, he has compiled four tackles.

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