Nationals

Nationals

At 10:44 p.m., the news came the way it does now, over social media. The Milwaukee Brewers' official account sent out the damning tweet: Christian Yelich, on his way to a second consecutive MVP award, broke his kneecap. He's out for the year.

This is bad for baseball, worse for Milwaukee. Two days ago, Yelich became the 10th player in major-league history to join the 40-30 club with 40 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Somehow, Yelich had improved on his 2018 MVP season which launched him from known good player to pleasant star. Few approached him at the All-Star Game inside Nationals Park last year while he tended to his stuff at his locker. By the start of the 2019 season, Yelich was besieged with interview requests once his talent and amenable personality became apparent to a larger audience. He was in high demand during the All-Star Game in Cleveland. 

Now, he's done for the year after fouling a ball off his kneecap in the first inning Tuesday night. His injury, as lamentable as it is, alters the wild-card race.

Milwaukee -- 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs while Chicago played San Diego on Tuesday  -- has won five in a row. Yelich leads the major leagues in OPS. The Brewers’ upcoming schedule is soft: Only a three-game series against St. Louis presents a quality team. Otherwise, it’s San Diego, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Colorado. Milwaukee started a three-game series against woeful Miami with a win Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s Brewers lineup didn’t feature another player with over a .900 OPS. For comparison, Washington has two, Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon. Rookie right field Trent Grisham replaced Yelich in right field. He’ll head to the bottom of the lineup. Yasmani Grandal, Eric Thames and Ryan Braun will become the focal points. None are remotely close to Yelich. Milwaukee’s lineup is suddenly thin.

This is the second major blow to a wild-card contender. The Cubs lost Javy Baez to a fractured thumb Saturday. Chicago thinks Baez has a chance to return for the playoffs -- if it holds on to the second wild-card spot or ends up catching the sliding Nationals. No such chance for Yelich, who may need surgery.

Meanwhile, the Nationals have avoided such a dire fate. They just need to handle their business while healthy. Unfortunately for those chasing them, it’s not going to be so easy.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: