MILWAUKEE -- Jesus Aguilar's epic at-bat leading off the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday was so long, Brewers manager Craig Counsell almost forgot it began with two strikes.And it was so good, with Aguilar flicking seven two-strike fouls before crushing the 13th pitch from Marlins reliever Junichi Tazawa
MILWAUKEE -- Jesus Aguilar's epic at-bat leading off the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday was so long, Brewers manager Craig Counsell almost forgot it began with two strikes.
And it was so good, with Aguilar flicking seven two-strike fouls before crushing the 13th pitch from Marlins reliever Junichi Tazawa for a walk-off home run and a 6-5 Brewers win at Miller Park, that Aguilar could proudly say he'd never had a better at-bat.
"Not even in Nintendo," Aguilar said, adding in English, "I feel like a superstar right now."
Said Counsell: "I've never seen anything better than that."
Maybe that hyperbole was warranted after a player who didn't enter the game until a double-switch in the top of the ninth inning delivered baseball's most exhausting walk-off home run in 21 years. The last player to work that hard for a walk-off homer was Garret Anderson of the Angels, who hit a three-run shot on the 13th pitch to beat the Twins on Sept. 15, 1997.
Before Aguilar connected, Travis Shaw homered for the second straight day, walked twice and scored three runs, including the tying tally with two outs in the eighth inning on a stunning Marlins misplay. The Brewers' victory was their fifth in a row.
Aguilar had been warm for a while, since he'd been told to be ready to pinch-hit for Brewers starter Brent Suter earlier in the game. That opportunity never came, so Aguilar waited while the Brewers chipped away at a 4-0 deficit while four relievers pitched four more scoreless innings.
It was the Brewers' third walk-off win this season and their second walk-off homer. Ryan Braun beat the Cardinals with one on April 3.
"I knew he threw a lot of offspeed, so I was just trying to stay back on it," Aguilar said. "At the end, in my mind I knew it was a battle between me and him. I just tried to get a pitch I could drive."
He got it.
"It's crazy what he continues to do, coming off the bench like that," Shaw said. "That's an amazing at-bat. It was a bomb, too. He said he was looking for something else and then just reacted to that pitch. I mean, to react and hit a ball like that is pretty good"
Aguilar nearly missed the Brewers' Opening Day cut because they have so many first basemen, especially with Braun starting the season as an option there. Instead, Aguilar leads the team in 35 plate appearances with a .490 weighted on-base average and 212 weighted runs created plus. The home run was his first this season after he hit 16 in 279 at-bats a year ago.
"This is what he's shown he has the ability to do," Counsell said. "Often his days are just one at-bat. I think he's become a force off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the National League. I don't know a guy around the league who's more dangerous."
Jacob Barnes, Josh Hader, Matt Albers and Jeremy Jeffress each pitched a scoreless inning to give the Brewers offense a chance to stage a comeback after Lewis Brinson's third home run of the series, a three-run shot off Suter, helped Miami take a 4-0 lead in the second inning. Milwaukee's relievers haven't allowed a run in their last 17 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and three walks with 21 strikeouts during the streak.
"It was really effective work by the bullpen," Suter said. "They're just continuing to be a unit out there. Those are guys who pitch for each other. There's a lot of love out there in the bullpen. What a great win to be a part of."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Brewers faced a 5-4 deficit in the eighth when Shaw worked a two out walk from Kyle Barraclough, giving Shaw 12 walks this season to tie Lorenzo Cain's team lead. Eric Thames followed with another free pass before Eric Sogard hit a popup to shallow left field that was so playable, Counsell looked down at his lineup card to prepare for the next inning. Several Marlins converged, including left fielder Derek Dietrich, who missed it. Shaw scored, but Thames was out at the plate thanks to a strong throw from former Brewers infielder Yadiel Rivera to catcher John Holaday, who made a terrific play to tag Thames on the leg before he could score the go-ahead run.
"I bet if that happens 100 times, [Dietrich] catches it 99 times," Shaw said. "It's so high, too, that multiple people have an opportunity at it. You would never guess that."
Said Thames: "It was just weird. I saw Dietrich [stagger], and then I almost missed the bag. Then I was going and I had no idea where the ball was. Usually, on a base hit, you know where the ball was and you know you're going to have to get dirty, hook slide, something like that. I had no idea."
Dietrich initially was charged with an error before the official scorer changed the play to a double and RBI for Sogard. Dietrich took the blame.
"I called the ball and I dropped it," Dietrich said. "That one's on me. Unfortunately, that [stinks] because [Marlins starter Jose Urena] pitched well and [Barraclough] did his job so that one's on me."
The Brewers cut the deficit to 4-3 by scoring two runs in a fourth-inning rally that began with Ryan Braun's double to center field. It was Braun's 700th career extra-base hit, tying him with Bobby Bonds for 188th all time, and his next targets include some former Brewers. Dante Bichette (and former Reds great George Foster) collected 702 extra-base hits, and Cecil Cooper had 703. Milwaukee Braves and Brewers legend Hank Aaron is the all-time leader, of course, with 1,477 extra-base hits.
HE SAID IT
"We'll go half and half." -- Aguilar, joking about sharing a new Toyota Highlander with one lucky Brewers fan after he nearly hit the vehicle perched above Miller Park's outfield concourse. If a Brewers player hits that truck on the fly, a fan wins it, courtesy of Wisconsin Toyota Dealers. But a Brewers spokesperson said they had video evidence and an eye witness saying Aguilar missed by a few feet.
Junior Guerra has a 0.82 ERA in two excellent starts following a promotion from Triple-A Colorado Springs, and will try to make it three in a row in Sunday's 1:10 p.m. CT series finale against the Marlins. Hitters are 5-for-36 (.139) against Guerra in his first two starts, including a no-decision against the Reds on Tuesday in which Guerra allowed one hit in 5 2/3 innings. Caleb Smith will start for Miami.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.