Villar on cusp of joining exclusive 20-60 club

September 27th, 2016

ARLINGTON -- After snapping his September slump, Brewers infielder is within two big swings and of some serious company.

A two-homer, five-RBI breakout in Monday's 8-3 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Park gave Villar 18 home runs to go with his Major League-leading 59 stolen bases.

Then in Tuesday's 6-4 loss to the Rangers, Villar swiped his 60th base.

With four games at hitter-friendly Texas and Colorado left on the schedule, Villar sits two home runs base shy of the seventh 20-60 season in Major League history. It would be the first since Rickey Henderson hit 28 homers with 65 steals in 1990.

When those milestones were mentioned on Monday night, Villar took a deep breath and exhaled, "Woo!"

"I never think about that, because home runs are not my game," Villar said. "This year I'm hitting home runs, so maybe next year. [Brewers manager Craig] Counsell has told me, 'You can hit 30 home runs.' I said, 'That's fine, but that's not my game.'"

Counsell believes it could be Villar's game.

"I think Johnny's got the power in him. I'm surprised by how much we've already seen it," Counsell said. "I think as he plays and goes on in his career, he's going to hit home runs, and he's going to be a power-type guy. But it's come sooner than we expected, certainly. What he's doing, it's rare, for sure."

Villar, a switch-hitter acquired from the Astros for Minor Leaguer pitcher in November, turned 25 on May 2. Villar helped the Brewers bridge the gap at shortstop to top prospect , and has been manning second and third base since Arcia's arrival in August.

Only three players in Major League history have hit 20-plus home runs while topping 60 stolen bases in a season. Hall of Famer Henderson had three such seasons, in 1985 and '86 for the Yankees, and in '90 for the A's. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan had two such seasons for the Reds, in '73 and '76. Another Red, Eric Davis, did it in '86.

Villar's pace has slowed this month amid a slump Counsell attributed to Villar playing the longest season of his career. He had three hits in a span of 48 at-bats before hitting a double in Sunday's loss to the Reds, Villar's first extra-base hit since Sept. 13.

Then came three more hits, including the two homers, on Monday night.

"I needed it for real, because this month has been a little bit bad, so I want to finish strong," Villar said. "I've been focused and I've been in the cages every day. I want to finish strong and take it into next year."