ATLANTA -- Jonathan Villar was the first person Atlanta Braves pitchers saw in every game of the recent three-game series.He turned out to be the last guy they wanted to see and the one who always seemed to come through in every big spot during the Brewers' first-ever sweep at
ATLANTA -- Jonathan Villar was the first person Atlanta Braves pitchers saw in every game of the recent three-game series.
He turned out to be the last guy they wanted to see and the one who always seemed to come through in every big spot during the Brewers' first-ever sweep at Turner Field.
"He's playing at a very high level right now and offensively he's showing us everything he can do," said manager Craig Counsell, following Milwaukee's 6-2 win Thursday night to complete the sweep.
It was like a recurring dream/nightmare -- depending on which side you were on. If it was a big spot, here came Villar walking up to the plate.
The recently turned 25-year-old shortstop finished the series hitting .417 (5-for-12), reached base two other times via walk, scored three runs, and drove in two more. Most of his damage seemed came in the seventh inning or later, as he was 2-for-3 (a home run, and an RBI single), with two walks, two runs scored, two RBIs, and a stolen base.
"He's hot right now and he's been able to get good swings on the ball in big situations," said catcher Jonathan Lucroy. "It's nice to have that guy in the lineup picking us up. Some guys are struggling and he picked us up right there."
On Tuesday night, in the eighth inning, with the game tied at 1 and two out -- the second out a potentially demoralizing pickoff play -- Villar reignited the rally by drawing a walk. He then stole second and scored easily on a Scooter Gennett single.
On Wednesday, he waited until the 13th. With the bases loaded and, again, two out, again, after a potentially demoralizing tag play and a lost challenge, he smacked an RBI single to left for what proved to be the winning run.
Finally, on Thursday, he let Ryan Braun have game-winning RBI honors, choosing instead to seal the deal, blasting a seventh-inning home run off Braves reliever Ian Krol to extend the lead to 4-2, then scored from first on a triple by pinch-hitter Hernan Perez in the ninth, to give the overtaxed bullpen some breathing room.
Three different games, three different ways he got the job done.
"That's my game," he said simply.
In the finale, he showed he could not only effectively use his feet, but also think on them.
In the seventh inning, Villar played possum when hard-throwing lefty Krol tried to take advantage of his tendency to take a strike.
"He's been kind of sitting on first pitches a little bit," Counsell said. "Tonight he jumped on one. It was good to see."
"He's aggressive with the fastball so I was ready for that pitch," Villar said. "Every time I take a strike. But in that situation I was looking for a fastball over the middle. I said, 'If he throws a fastball middle, let me take a swing.'"
Krol bit, Villar swung and he had his second homer of the season.
"That was a big home run," said Villar, whose only other homer came on Opening Day against San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner. "I wasn't thinking of hitting a home run. I think every at-bat 'Hit a line drive.' That's how home runs come."
The Brewers are coming home confident off this sweep and split of the six-game road trip.
"The team is more confident," he said. "We are very comfortable. So tomorrow we go play Cincinnati. We'll be more happy, play happy."
Counsell is happy to watch his shortstop at the plate, on the bases or in the field.
"He had a nice series defensively as well," said the Brewers' skipper. "He's playing at a very high level right now and he's doing a nice job."
Jon Cooper is a contributor for MLB.com based in Atlanta.