CINCINNATI -- Ryan Braun and Jonathan Villar punctuated their first series off the disabled list by smacking three of the Brewers' six home runs in an 11-3 rout of the Reds on Thursday, sending Braun on a trip down memory lane.He was a rookie in 2007 the last time the
CINCINNATI -- Ryan Braun and Jonathan Villar punctuated their first series off the disabled list by smacking three of the Brewers' six home runs in an 11-3 rout of the Reds on Thursday, sending Braun on a trip down memory lane.
He was a rookie in 2007 the last time the Brewers homered six times in a game, right here at Great American Ball Park. That day began with back-to-back-to-back dingers from Rickie Weeks Jr., J.J. Hardy and Braun.
"I hadn't thought about that in a while," said Braun, who added, "Obviously it's a good ballpark to hit in."
It was especially good on Thursday, when Villar homered twice and Braun, Jesus Aguilar, Manny Pina and Domingo Santana hit one apiece, as the Brewers avoided a sweep. Five of the six homers had a hit probability below 75 percent, according to Statcast™, meaning fly balls hit with the same exit velocity and launch angle are outs more than a quarter of the time. That tied the Royals' win over the Padres on June 10 at Petco Park for the most such homers in a game this season.
The Brewers also hit two home runs with an exit velocity below 95 mph (Pina's at 94.9 mph and Villar's second shot of the night at 93.2 mph), tying another Statcast™ season high.
"You just knew we were going to kind of bust out of it -- especially in a park like this," said winning pitcher Jimmy Nelson, who matched his career high with 11 strikeouts in seven innings while holding the Reds to two runs on a pair of Joey Votto solo homers. "These hitters are just too good to be held down."
As much as Thursday's power barrage offered a reminder of the Brewers' past, it was more about their immediate future. Braun delivered an extra-base hit in all three games in Cincinnati, including home runs in the last two. That's big for a team that survived atop the National League Central while he nursed a calf injury for all of May and most of June.
And Villar made the most of his first start since returning from a DL stint for a lower back injury, leading off consecutive innings with homers. Villar will have to win back playing time at second base from surprise standout Eric Sogard.
"I'm going to be ready for everything," Villar said. "[Craig] Counsell's the manager. I'll be ready for anything."
Villar played alongside Braun during a Minor League tuneup with Class A Wisconsin last weekend and said he knew Braun would return from the DL swinging a hot bat when the Brewers left fielder hit an opposite-field home run on Saturday night.
Upon returning to active duty for the Brewers, Braun doubled on Tuesday, homered on Wednesday and homered again with two outs in the first inning Thursday as part of a two-hit game in the finale.
"I think Ryan's health is the thing," Counsell said. "Being able to play three games means he's feeling pretty good. I wasn't too worried he wasn't going to hit. He's going to hit."
The original plan had Braun sitting out Thursday as he ramps up to regular duty. That changed when the Reds won the first two games of the series and Braun felt able to go.
"The first day I hit a bunch of balls hard that were outs, too," Braun said. "I feel like I swung the bat pretty well. Defensively, I made a couple of challenging plays. I felt like I ran the bases pretty well. So it was great. It was a nice start. It was nice to get re-acclimated to being out there on the field."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.