With a man on first and no outs in the top of the sixth inning Wednesday, Brewers catcher Omar Narváez walked up to the plate hoping to tie the game.
Milwaukee had fallen behind by a run in the series finale against San Diego, but third baseman Travis Shaw walked leading off the inning to bring up Narváez. To help him out, Shaw even moved into scoring position when Padres catcher Victor Caratini hit Narváez’s bat with the ball on a throw back to the pitcher.
Turns out, Narváez didn’t need the help.
Narváez took a hanging curveball from Padres reliever Keone Kela and shot it over the right-field wall, putting Milwaukee ahead for good as the Brewers earned the 4-2 win and swept San Diego at Petco Park. Even with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Kolten Wong still on the injured list, contributions from players like Narváez helped Milwaukee take three on the road against one of the preseason favorites in the National League.
“Omar continues to be really impressive, just swinging the bat really well and doing a great job behind the plate,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I think you win series like this because you get contributions from a lot of people. We got big contributions from our two big pitchers, Woody [Brandon Woodruff] and Corbin [Burnes]. But a lot of other guys did really good things in the series.”
The home run continued an explosive opening month for Narváez in his second season with the Brewers. Following a down year at the plate in 2020, Narváez is now hitting .396 in 16 games this season. His 19 hits in 55 plate appearances matches his total from last season, when he hit safely 19 times in 126 trips to the plate. He’s also already exceeded the two home runs he recorded last season with his third on Wednesday.
"I think the biggest thing for me is just enjoying every day in the field. Just enjoy being with the guys and have fun,” Narváez said. “Don't let whatever happened the last AB take my game down. Just create a new plan and go up to home plate with the plan and start executing."
It seems like just about everything is going Narváez’s way lately.
In his at-bat prior to the home run, Narváez hit a blooper just over the glove of Padres second baseman Ha-Seong Kim. That historically would have been an easy jog to first for Narváez. But San Diego third baseman Manny Machado was shifted, playing in shallow right and nearly threw Narváez out at first.
"First of all, I thought that [Kim] was gonna catch it, and then when I saw the ball drop, I saw Manny close it,” Narváez said, “and I was like, 'Oh my God, I gotta run.'"
But it hasn’t just been offensive excellence for him in the early going.
Counsell said before the game that if Narváez could continue to combine the hitter he’s been this season -- and had been before 2020 -- with the defensive catcher he became last season, he could remain the productive catcher the Brewers believe he can be.
The offensive success has been more than clear, and in the late innings Wednesday, Narváez proved he’s right there defensively.
When San Diego loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning, Narváez helped relievers Brad Boxberger and J.P. Feyereisen come all the way back to escape the inning without allowing a run. Then, when closer Josh Hader threw a wild pitch in the ninth with runners on first and second, Narváez pounced on the ball quickly enough to keep Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. from attempting to score.
While Milwaukee waits for its injured players to return, Narváez has done everything necessary on both sides of the ball to keep the Brewers afloat.
“He’s back to the place where he thought he could be and where we thought he could be,” Counsell said. “I’m happy for him. It shows the hard work. He’s really becoming a complete player.”