Hiura hits 1st HR in Crew's power-filled day

Three solo shots help Brewers end road trip with victory; Woodruff goes eight innings

May 19th, 2019

ATLANTA -- is on the board in the big leagues, and he wasn’t the only Brewers hitter who cleared the fences to finish the season’s longest road trip with a win.

Hiura, the No. 15 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, hit his first Major League home run on Sunday at SunTrust Park, neatly sandwiched between solo shots for and in a 10-inning, 3-2 win over the Braves.

All three Brewers home runs came on the first pitch, and all three provided a lead -- Yelich in the first inning, Hiura in the fifth and Gamel in the 10th off Braves reliever Wes Parsons before Josh Hader secured the final outs of a 5-5 trip. The journey pitted the Brewers against the National League Central-leading Cubs, the NL East-leading Phillies and the Braves, who sit in second place in the NL East.

“To finish off a long, tough road trip with a win and kind of hold serve on the road, so to speak -- 5-5 against three teams above .500 and a couple teams that are leading their division -- that’s a good place to be,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, who was ejected in the fifth after a disputed Orlando Arcia groundout.

There are no easy games in the big leagues, but Milwaukee’s upcoming schedule looks more forgiving, especially with a pair of off-days at home this week. The Brewers are 28-21, having cleared an early-season gauntlet heavy on the Cardinals and Dodgers, then a more recent stretch of 23 games in 24 days that included the only 10-game trip on their schedule.

Twenty-three of the Brewers’ remaining 42 games before the All-Star break are against the Reds and Pirates, plus nine more games against Marlins, Giants and Mariners teams that currently sit under .500.

“Long road trip, and we’re definitely happy to be heading back to Milwaukee,” Gamel said. “It was big to get that last win here. Losing a couple of close games, it’s good to get this last one.”

Here are three takeaways as the Brewers head home:

1) The man can hit
Hiura’s solo shot off Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz in the fifth inning snapped a 1-1 tie when it sailed into the Brewers bullpen, where bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel secured the baseball for safekeeping. The homer came in Hiura’s 25th career plate appearance.

He was a power threat in the Minor Leagues this season, with 11 home runs in 37 games for Triple-A San Antonio before his promotion to the Majors last week in the wake of Travis Shaw’s wrist injury.

“He got the two firsts out of the way,” said Counsell, referring to Hiura’s first two hits in his debut and his first home run on Sunday. “A good way to end a road trip.”

“The debut, of course, trumps it all,” Hiura said. “But it definitely feels good to have a home run in the big leagues.”

He planned to give the milestone baseball to his parents.

2) This man can hit, too -- even on the road
Heading into Thursday’s series finale at Philadelphia, Yelich’s home-road splits were head-scratchers. At Miller Park, he had hit 15 home runs with 32 RBIs and a 1.665 OPS in 19 games. In 21 road games, Yelich had one home run, six RBIs and a more pedestrian .748 OPS.

But he homered twice that day at Citizens Bank Park, then hit another in the first inning on Sunday against Foltynewicz for an early Brewers lead. It was Yelich’s Major League-leading 19th home run this season. Last year, on the way to winning the NL MVP Award, he didn’t hit No. 19 until Aug. 18.

3) The pitching is in a much better place
This may be the most important development for the Brewers’ long-term fortunes. When they left home, Milwaukee starters ranked last in the NL with a collective 4.92 ERA and were delivering the fewest innings per start of any NL club. In the 10 games of this trip, including 's eight innings of two-run ball on Sunday, the same group pitched to a 1.61 ERA (10 earned runs in 56 innings). Among all 30 MLB clubs, only Dodgers starters have been better in that span.

NL ERA leader Zach Davies has been leading the way, but Woodruff has been just as good of late, with a 1.50 ERA over his past five starts, all Brewers wins. On Sunday, he threw the firmest regular-season fastball of his career at 98.8 mph, per Statcast. His final pitch of the seventh, after Freddie Freeman’s fourth homer in as many games tied the game at 2, was an even 98 mph. Woodruff touched 96.4 mph in the eighth.

“I just think we try to lean on each other and learn from each other,” Woodruff said. “I’ve watched Zach and Gio [Gonzalez] and Chase [Anderson] to see how they pitch. Zach obviously is doing a great job. He’s mixing the pitches up, he’s moving it in and out, and it’s like, ‘I can learn from that,’ and take that and try to get deep into games.”