NL Central-leading Brewers beat Yanks

Milwaukee Brewers' Keon Broxton, right, gets safely into second base as New York Yankees shortstop Tyler Wade cannot make the catch during the eighth inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, Sunday, July 9, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK — 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¢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.