Yankees discard Josh Donaldson is powering Brewers’ chase for NL title

Josh Donaldson hits a home run for Milwaukee Brewers against the Cardinals on Sept. 20, 2023, at American Family Field.

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For the Yankees, parting ways with Josh Donaldson was a tough decision driven by the need to make room for their emerging prospects. Yet, the story took a different turn for the player when he joined the Milwaukee Brewers, a team currently leading their division and setting their sights on the postseason.

As the Brewers edge closer to clinching a playoff spot, they’ve been on a remarkable winning streak, securing victory in five of their last seven games. Josh Donaldson’s impact has been conspicuous, notably highlighted by his recent three-run home run that proved pivotal in shifting the outcome of a game in their favor.

Brewers outfielder Tyrone Taylor commented on the impact of the player, stating that his presence had been palpable since his arrival. Taylor acknowledged that Josh Donaldson was the league MVP and had been performing impressively for the team. He shared an anecdote about doing cage work and listening to the player discuss his approach to the game and life in general, noting that it was a positive experience to be around him.

“Ever since he’s been here, you could feel his presence,” he said. “He’s been mashing for us. I was doing cage work today, just listening to him talk about his approach and about life really. It’s cool to be around him.”

Josh Donaldson homered for the Brewers

It was a specific talent, the ability to hit home runs, that initially brought Josh Donaldson to Milwaukee following a season plagued by injuries with the Yankees. And on two separate occasions, he has demonstrated that skill. In Wednesday’s 8-2 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, his three-run homer with two outs in the first inning not only contributed to the win but also advanced the Brewers further along the path to determine if that power will prove valuable during the postseason.

Brewers starter Adrian Houser referred to Josh Donaldson’s nickname as “The ‘Bringer Of Rain'” and remarked that it seemed to have come true tonight as they experienced rain during the game.

Josh Donaldson’s stats invite attention

The statistics are quite eye-opening. Out of Josh Donaldson’s 22 hits so far this season, an impressive 12 of them have resulted in home runs. Since joining the Brewers, he has already smashed two homers in his initial nine games, and on both occasions, those long balls have propelled the team to victory.

Yankees' Josh Donaldson ducks away from a pitch by Orioles' Jordan Lyles on May 18, 2022, in Baltimore.
AP

Josh Donaldson may not be in contention for any batting titles with this approach, but he plays a crucial role on the Brewers, a team that was in dire need of more power, particularly against left-handed starting pitchers who have posed challenges. The Cardinals, for instance, started a left-handed pitcher for the second consecutive night on Wednesday, and for the second night in a row, the Brewers secured a win through some heavy hitting.

On Tuesday, it was William Contreras’ home run in the third inning and a string of four consecutive doubles in the fourth inning that made the difference. On Wednesday, it was Josh Donaldson’s first-inning home run and Taylor’s fourth-inning homer, both coming against Cardinals’ lefty starter Zack Thompson.

This is how a hitter like Donaldson, who boasts a .159 batting average over 157 plate appearances this season between the Yankees and Brewers, can have a positive impact on a surging Milwaukee team that has triumphed in 21 of its last 30 games since enduring a sweep at Dodger Stadium last month.

From Bronx bust to Milwaukee asset

When the Brewers inked a Minor League contract with Josh Donaldson in the latter part of the previous month, he was discarded by the Yankees while on the injured list. The Brewers had a clear objective when they brought him on board – they were in search of a power hitter. Josh Donaldson explained that his somewhat unusual statistics could, in part, be attributed to the limited number of plate appearances he had so far. He emphasized that his approach remains consistent with his days as an MVP contender: focusing on delivering a high-quality at-bat.

The player explained that when he made solid contact with the baseball, the result often appeared to be home runs.

josh-donaldson-new-york-yankees
AP

The occurrence is rather unusual when you take a closer look. Consider that Josh Donaldson has hit 12 home runs this season compared to just seven singles. Presently, this represents the lowest number of singles for a hitter with double-digit home runs in the history of both the American and National Leagues. This puts Josh Donaldson in a distinctive category alongside individuals like Curt Casali (who had eight singles and 10 homers in 2015) and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas (who recorded eight singles and 12 homers during an injury-shortened 2005 season with the White Sox). In the context of Brewers history, similar seasons can be found in the records of “three true outcomes” slugger Russell Branyan, who managed 13 singles and 12 home runs in 2008, as well as 14 singles and 11 home runs in 2004.

What sets Josh Donaldson apart from other players known for their home run-or-nothing approach is his consistent and solid defense at third base. In a recent game, despite what may have appeared to be a routine play, he had to contend with challenging conditions – a tense eighth inning, a run already in, two runners on base, and rain falling – as he made an inning-ending catch on a pop-up, demonstrating his defensive prowess.

Josh Donaldson expressed his appreciation for being in a positive environment where the team was achieving success and for being able to contribute to that success. He emphasized the importance of the team’s camaraderie and how the other players had made him feel comfortable in his new surroundings. Josh Donaldson acknowledged the privilege of being a regular part of a contender’s lineup and noted that he didn’t take it for granted.

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