Villar on upswing, showing flashes of 2016

September 1st, 2017

MILWAUKEE -- At some point during 's quietly productive August, one of his teammates nudged another.

"I said to [Jesus] Aguilar, who wasn't here, 'That's the Villar we know from last year,'" said , a teammate of Villar's during his breakthrough 2016. "That's the guy we knew would be back."

Trying to author a positive finish to a slump-riddled season, Villar homered for the second consecutive game in the Brewers' 6-3 win over the Nationals on Thursday at Miller Park, adding three hits to his best month by far of 2017. By hitting safely in his last nine starts, and with multiple hits during his last three games, Villar batted .364 (20-for-55) in August with a .950 OPS in 57 plate appearances.

The relatively small sample is a reflection of how Villar's role has diminished as a result of his season-long struggles, and the Brewers' moves to get better at second base. First they brought up to share time with Villar. Then they traded for the Mets' on Aug. 12.

"I think he changed his mind about what's going on," Perez said. "He knows we have new players who can play the position he used to play. I think that helped a little bit, his mind. He is focused on what he has to do."

Said Aguilar: "He obviously was a little frustrated. Everybody who goes through it, especially when you're having a really bad year. But thankfully, he's been able to turn it around, and now that we actually need him, he's been able to do his thing and have good games."

Notably, Thursday's home run came right-handed against Nationals lefty . Villar is a switch-hitter who was more productive last season from that side of the plate (.545 slugging percentage, .930 OPS), but has been out of whack this season. He entered Thursday slugging .290 with a .546 OPS right-handed, with only one of his 10 home runs coming from that side of the plate.

Villar connected with one of Gonzalez's high-spin curveballs for an opposite-field, two-run shot and a 5-2 Brewers lead in the fifth inning. Gonzalez had not surrendered more than four earned runs in a game since May 8.

"It's a tough season when you struggle and you lose playing time," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "There's a lot you think about during that time. It hasn't been easy for him. But as you keep going through this, there's season left. There's big games left. There's impact to make. That's why you keep working.

"The guy who gets hot at the right time can make a big difference."