MILWAUKEE -- Here are the pitchers who have homered so far in 2021:
- Shohei Ohtani
That’s it. That’s the list.
Houser -- 2-for-28 with 21 strikeouts in at-bats coming into the night -- was an unlikely candidate to go deep but that’s what he did, hammering a Daniel Castano fastball 109 mph off the bat and a Statcast-projected 418 feet to center field for the first of back-to-back home runs in the Brewers’ 5-4 win over the Marlins on Tuesday at American Family Field.
“It felt really good, felt like a good swing. I just didn’t know where it went,” Houser said. “When I looked up the lights started going out, so I said, ‘Home run.’”
That’s a new feature of an improved LED lighting system this season, and Tyrone Taylor set it off again when he hit the second of those consecutive homers on a three-RBI night as the Brewers won for the sixth time in eight games behind their power-hitting pitcher.
“He's always shown power,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who’s seen a lot of Houser hitting because starters routinely take batting practice as a group. “So, he's in the top three [of candidates on the staff to homer], for sure. He took a great swing and that ball exploded off the bat. It was a no-doubter.
“And then the great part was just seeing how fired up Adrian was. He's pretty low key most of the time but he was as fired up as I've seen him coming to the dugout.”
Houser handled the lumber well both times up. His home run with two outs in the second inning put the Brewers on the board before Taylor followed with another home run for the Brewers’ first lead. Two innings later, Houser executed a textbook sacrifice bunt that produced another go-ahead RBI for Taylor on a run-scoring groundout.
On the mound, Houser allowed three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, with one walk, a season-high seven strikeouts -- his most since a career-best 10 strikeouts against Texas in August 2019 -- and a run-scoring wild pitch.
But the highlight was the homer. Houser became the first Brewers pitcher to hit a home run since Aaron Wilkerson against Michael Wacha and the Cardinals on April 17, 2019, and the 27th different Brewers/Pilots pitcher to go deep. The list features a pair of Houser's teammates, including one who took over in relief of Houser on Tuesday, Brent Suter, and the only Brewers pitcher to homer in the regular season and in the postseason, Brandon Woodruff.
Houser has a long way to go before he’s the Babe Ruth of Brewers pitchers, however. Yovani Gallardo holds the club record for pitcher plate prowess with 12 home runs during his Milwaukee tenure.
Taylor could attest that this was not the first time Houser homered. They were teammates at Triple-A San Antonio in 2019 when Houser hit his only other home run in 11 seasons playing professional baseball.
"It was epic and I’m glad that happened," Taylor said in a postgame interview with Bally Sports Wisconsin’s Sophia Minnaert. "It was almost identical from the last time. It was sick."
Houser has quietly been pitching a lot better in 2021, one of the reasons the Brewers are 14-9 and atop the NL Central with 12 players currently on the injured list, including Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and starter Brett Anderson. Houser is 2-2 with a 3.65 ERA through five starts and 24 2/3 innings after going 1-6 with a 5.30 ERA in 56 innings during the shortened 2020 season. His strikeouts were up Tuesday but he’s still a contact pitcher; Houser’s 59.7 percent groundball rate is fourth-highest among Major League qualifiers.
“I think it's just understanding who he is,” Counsell said. “It's kind of taking the tough moments and getting past them, getting right on to the next moment. I think he's done a really good job with that. Again, it's being out there every five days or six days and understanding what a starting pitcher has to do. He's got some great examples around him right now of how guys can continue to get better and continue to improve, and he's following right along.”
Now he added a big hit to the things he’s done well this season. Does Houser consider himself a decent hitter?
“As ‘Murph’ says it,” he said, referring to bench coach Pat Murphy, “we [stink]. We’re not hitters, we’re pitchers.”
On Tuesday night, Houser was both.