Feeling ill, Hiura finds best medicine is walk-off HR

Feeling ill, Hiura finds best medicine is walk-off HR

MILWAUKEE — Keston Hiura was having a hard day. It’s funny how one good swing can change everything.

Called up from Triple-A on Wednesday morning when the Brewers put Willy Adames on the injured list, Hiura manned first base against the Braves and was hitless in four at-bats through the first nine innings. In the 10th, his split-second decision to hold the bag instead of leaping for a high throw allowed a go-ahead run to score. And on top of all of that, Hiura was sick. Multiple tests said it wasn’t COVID-19, but he felt lousy.

“Last night,” Hiura said, “I was on my deathbed a little bit.”

By the end of a 7-6 win in 11 innings over the Braves, Hiura was feeling much better. He hit a two-run home run as the Brewers came from behind in three consecutive innings to win on a wild afternoon at American Family Field.

The Brewers were down a run entering the ninth inning against Kenley Jansen, the 10th inning against Darren O’Day and the 11th inning against Jesse Chavez, but scored each time to take the series, two games to one. The Brewers’ largest comeback victory of the season included a rare late surge (they entered the day 1-13 when trailing after eight innings), a rare success against Dodgers-turned-Braves closer Kenley Jansen (the Brewers saddled him with a blown save for only the second time in 27 career matchups) and a rare flurry of runs on a day Corbin Burnes pitched. The Brewers had averaged 2.7 runs per game in Burnes’ first seven starts this season before scoring seven runs and coming back from a 4-0 deficit on Wednesday.

“We wanted to fight,” said Kolten Wong, whose two-strike, two-out triple in the ninth off Jansen forced the Brewers’ first extra-inning game this season. “I feel like that was something we hadn’t done this year, was continue to fight all nine innings. That was an awesome team win.”

The late rally against Jansen was a victory in itself. Besides being his second blown save against the Brewers over 13 seasons, this marked the first time that Jansen took the mound against Milwaukee with a lead and then saw the Brewers win the game. 

Making this win even sweeter, the Brewers outlasted the Braves while playing short-handed. Middle-of-the-order hitters Adames and Andrew McCutchen were both on the injured list (McCutchen is expected back from the COVID-19 IL on Friday), and two key relievers were unavailable. Set-up man Brad Boxberger was deemed off limits after throwing 29 pitches the night before, and Josh Hader wasn’t even at the ballpark. Hader was called away for what manager Craig Counsell called a “family situation.” 

“It was just a great team win,” Counsell said. “We had a lot of guys who came up clutch and had great at-bats in big spots, and Keston kind of topped it off. But there was a long list of guys that had some really tough ABs.”

He ticked some of them off from memory. Mike Brosseau’s RBI double off Atlanta ace Max Fried in the sixth inning that made it a 4-3 game after Burnes and the Brewers had fallen into a 4-0 deficit on a pair of Braves homers in the third. Jace Peterson’s walk leading off the bottom of the ninth against Jansen. Wong coming back from down 0-2 to tie the game with a triple off Jansen on the seventh pitch. Christian Yelich’s 0-2 single in the 10th to push the tying runner to third for Hunter Renfroe’s tying sacrifice fly.

The Braves were similarly feisty, taking a 5-4 lead in the 10th and a 6-5 lead in the 11th before Hiura delivered his second career walk-off home run. His first was back in 2019 off then-Cub Craig Kimbrel.

“Those extra innings, I know some don’t like the [automatic runner] rule, but something’s going on every inning in those innings,” Counsell said. “You’ve got to make plays, every pitch matters and we just kept going. The at-bats — we made the outs really tough and it paid off.”

Patience paid off for Hiura, who appeared in 15 games for the Brewers to start the season and batted .216 before getting optioned to Nashville on May 6. In the Minors, he went 8-for-19 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in five games prior to Wednesday’s call back. 

“You try to build off of every at-bat, regardless of result,” Hiura said. “I think as the game went on, that was my goal, to see those pitches and stay aggressive and also be selectively aggressive.” 

Hiura sounded congested. Asked how he was feeling after the game, he said, “I feel fine. I can’t wait for some sleep, that’s for sure.”

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