Hiura gets fired up, hits clutch RBI 2B, HR

September 5th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- "I don't see him as a scuffling-type hitter," said Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines, even though 's numbers so far have suggested otherwise.

One hit at a time, Hiura is getting back into the swing of things, including Wednesday when he homered for the pivot point of a win over the Tigers at Miller Park, and Friday when he hit a go-ahead RBI double in a four-run seventh inning rally -- right after Haines' fiery ejection -- and added a two-run home run for insurance in the eighth in the Brewers' 7-1 win over the Indians at Progressive Field.

Milwaukee has won five of its last seven games to keep pressure on the Cardinals and Cubs, who are meeting this weekend at Wrigley Field.

The Brewers are hanging in there, just like Hiura.

"He would definitely be a great spark to the lineup," said after a second straight stellar start.

A breakout player a year ago, when Hiura slashed .303/.368/.570 and hit 19 home runs -- third most for a Brewers rookie behind Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder -- Hiura is hitting .236 and rising this year. Until Friday, he hadn't collected multiple hits in a game for more than two weeks, since he homered as part of a three-hit night at Minnesota on Aug. 19. Still, he's been getting his hits. Hiura has at least one hit in 14 of his last 18 games, including the last five in a row. Friday's home run -- 106.6 mph off the bat with a projected distance of 415 feet, per Statcast -- was Hiura's team-leading 10th homer of 2020, one better than Christian Yelich.

"We talk a lot about Keston," Haines said last week. "He's right in that window of at-bats where a guy in the big leagues has been a prospect that doesn't have a ton of professional at-bats, let alone at-bats in the big leagues. So there's going to be some of this cat-and-mouse, ebb-and-flow of who are you as a hitter?

"Keston's fighting through it. I don't see him as a scuffling-type hitter. I see some ups and downs and see him fighting to hold his own. Just like we bragged on Keston, he's going to keep adjusting and we'll see him off to the races. It's just who he is as a hitter."

Hiura credited Haines for helping him fight. Perhaps no statistic tells the story better than the one noted earlier Friday by Will Sammon of The Athletic: Hiura entered the night having swung and missed pitches in the zone 39.4 percent of the time, highest in baseball with a minimum of 100 swings at in-zone pitches, according to Statcast.

"The big thing right now for me is trying to be more upright," Hiura said. "I was leaning over the plate at times, which changes the pitch perspective and pitch selection and everything else just follows after that. … I've been working on that with Haines, and it's been feeling really good in the cage and on the field."

Said Brewers manager Craig Counsell: "What it amounts to is just not missing some pitches he gets to hit."

Hiura's go-ahead hit -- a fly ball to the wall in right field on which Tyler Naquin appeared to mistime his jump -- was part of a four-run rally in a spirited seventh inning. Haines was ejected for arguing with home-plate umpire Jerry Meals, who'd drawn the Brewers' ire much of the night. Then five consecutive Milwaukee batters reached base, including Hiura on the hit that snapped a 1-1 tie, Yelich on a Carlos Santana error that allowed two more runs to score and Braun on a pinch-hit RBI single in his first at-bat since his back flared up five days earlier.

Did Haines fire the team up?

"He always fires us up," Hiura said. "He's so passionate about his job, the players and this team. He's completely invested in all of us. To get that from him, even on a check swing early in the game, it fires you up and makes you want to go to battle for him, to get that win for him. And we did."

It all backed a sharp Burnes, who pitched into the seventh inning of a start for the first time in his career and didn't allow an earned run. And it gave Counsell his 423rd managerial victory, snapping a tie with Tom Trebelhorn for third most in Brewers history.

"It's about that time everyone starts swinging the bat, and it's good to see Keston swinging it," Burnes said. "'Yeli is taking some good swings up there. Just having those guys constantly [producing] in the lineup makes it a pretty scary lineup to face."