NEW YORK -- Travis Shaw homered and drove in four runs, and All-Star closer Corey Knebel worked overtime to atone for Saturday's blown save as the Brewers held off rally after late-inning rally to beat the Yankees on Sunday, 5-3, in the finale of the first half.
Shaw's booming shot off Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka gave Milwaukee a three-run home run in the first inning for the second straight game, and unlike Saturday, the Brewers' bullpen held the lead. Knebel threw 33 pitches for a four-out save to seal Milwaukee's ninth win in 10 games, pushing the Brewers into the All-Star break a season-high 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Cubs in the National League Central.
"It's a fun game, is what I say," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell after the Yankees brought at least the potential tying run to the plate in each of the last five innings. "Hopefully we have a bunch of games like that ahead of us."
With setup man Jacob Barnes down for the day after pitching the first two games of the series, Counsell had a multi-inning save in mind for Knebel if the situation arose. Knebel struggled again with command but struck out the side in the ninth, extending to 44 his streak of relief appearances with at least one strikeout over the past two seasons. Aroldis Chapman's all-time record is 49 in a row.
"It was big for me, big for the team," Knebel said. "They stuck with me, even after last night. … It came back to confidence. I found it in the ninth and rode it out, trying to throw strikes."
The Yankees finished the first half with 18 losses in their last 25 games. Tanaka's ERA rose to 5.47 ERA after he allowed five earned runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings, snapping a streak of three straight quality starts in which the right-hander had limited the damage to three earned runs in his last 21 innings.
"He wasn't sharp today," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi of Tanaka. "His slider wasn't as sharp as it's been. And he made some mistakes. … He made a mistake with the backdoor slider that ended up middle-in, and that was the three-run homer [to Shaw], and that was the big mistake."
As an encore to Saturday's walk-off home run, Yankees rookie outfielder Clint Frazier hit a two-run home run against Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson, who held the Yankees scoreless for five-plus innings outside of a three-run fourth. Nelson allowed seven hits and two walks while striking out six to finish the first half with a 3.30 ERA.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Upon further review: For a few moments in the sixth inning, the Yankees had a 6-5 lead. After Nelson surrendered a single and a walk to start the frame, reliever Carlos Torres took over and saw Chase Headley lift a fly ball a Statcast-projected 364 feet past the right-field foul pole for a go-ahead, three-run home run. But Brewers catcher Stephen Vogt immediately signaled that he'd seen the baseball sail foul, and upon a crew-chief review, the umpires agreed. Headley returned to the batter's box and struck out before Torres retired Frazier on a first-pitch flyout to shallow right field. Oliver Drake then entered the game to strike out Ji-Man Choi, and the Brewers' 5-3 advantage was safe.
"I knew it was foul the whole time," Headley said. "I mean, it's a bad feeling. The ball's an inch foul. [If] it goes one inch the other way, we're winning the game. But it didn't."
Said Torres: "I thought it was foul, but it was way too close for me. I was absolutely baffled he kept it fair for as long as he did. As soon as he hit it, I thought it was 45 feet foul. It was obviously a lot closer than I thought." More >
Again in the seventh: The Yankees brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate again in the seventh inning against Drake and Jared Hughes, who stranded a pair of runners by retiring Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez on loud flyouts. Sanchez's line drive to right field left his bat at 112 mph and had a hit probability of 80 percent, according to Statcast™, but Domingo Santana ran it down to end another threat.
"It was a big 'uh oh.' I thought for sure I was getting ready to back up home," said Hughes. "I looked back and saw Santana leap in the air and make the catch. I was pretty happy about that."
And again in the eighth: For the third straight inning, the Yankees brought the potential winning run to the plate after Knebel replaced Hughes with two outs and a runner aboard, walked Choi and went to a full count against Tyler Wade. Again, the Brewers preserved their lead when shortstop Orlando Arcia made a nice play on a bouncer to his backhand side to end the inning. Knebel worked around another walk in the ninth by striking out the side for his 14th save before heading to Miami for the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
"I was hoping we could get Corey back out there today," Counsell said. "It's great for Corey. He's been so 'on it' all year. He had a little hiccup yesterday, but get right back out there and prove it again. And he did. He gets to enjoy the next four days."
"The dugout is light, the dugout is excited. We're really feeling good. [The Yankees are] an unbelievable baseball team over there, and they're going to do a lot of damage in the second half. We're fortunate to be able to walk out of here with two out of three. We're excited for the break. It's been three emotional games back-to-back-to-back, so it's going to be nice to sit back for a few days and relax." -- Vogt, whose solo homer in the second inning gave him six Brewers hits, four of which are home runs
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The win was the Brewers' 50th this season. They did not get to 50 victories last year until Aug. 10 on the way to a 73-89 finish.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: The Brewers will knock off the rust accrued during the All-Star break during an optional workout at Miller Park on Thursday before resuming play at home against the Phillies at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday. Zach Davies gets the ball for the Brewers' second-half opener after going 10-4 in the first half despite a 4.90 ERA. Davies has gotten six runs of support per game, second-most in the Majors among qualifiers for the ERA titles.
Yankees: The Yankees will ship up to Boston for the start of the second half in a four-game series against the first-place Red Sox, beginning Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET, which will be the MLB Network Showcase game. Manager Joe Girardi has yet to set his rotation for after the All-Star break.