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Slumping Brewers Rhys Hoskins, William Contreras shine against Rangers

Slumping Brewers Rhys Hoskins, William Contreras shine against Rangers

Slumping Brewers Rhys Hoskins, William Contreras shine against Rangers

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Milwaukee Brewers manager Pat Murphy is quick to refer to William Contreras and Rhys Hoskins as two of the “pillars” of his club.

But the two sluggers, who are as critical to the Brewers’ foundation as anyone, had entered the team’s series with the Texas Rangers a little shaky.

The slugging sluggers came up big in the sixth inning to spark a game-changing rally Monday night at American Family Field.

Box Score: Brewers 6, Rangers 3

Contreras, who after a scorching two-month start has come crashing back down lately, opened the inning by working a full count and hit an opposite-field double that chased after Rangers starter Michael Lorenzen.

Three batters later, with the bases loaded and still nobody out, Rhys Hoskins took a first-pitch fastball from left-handed reliever Jacob Latz and lined it out for the grand slam that sent the Brewers to a 6-run victory -3.

Rhys Hoskins wanted the moment

A quote from a coach early in Hoskins’ career has stuck with him.

“You’ve got to want that fifth at-bat, even if you’re 0-for-4,” Hoskins said.

Entering Monday’s game, Hoskins was 0 for 2. Going back further, he was 9 for his last 53.

And yet he wanted the next at-bat.

“It always feels great to get in front of the guys,” Hoskins said. “It was a big situation in the game. I learned pretty quickly that the game will always throw you in the next moment.”

Hoskins provided a highlight just days before, tying the scoring in the top of the ninth in San Diego with a double, but outside of that swing success has been largely fleeting for the 6-foot-4 first baseman. Since returning from hamstring injury on May 31, Hoskins batted .203 with a .549 OPS coming into the day — certainly not the kind of numbers he’s come to expect from him in his career.

But Hoskins felt he started to better control the strike zone over the weekend in San Diego.

Mix in some fantastic plate appearances in front of him — labored walks by Christian Yelich and Willy Adames against Latz gave Hoskins a long chance to see what the Rangers southpaw is working with — and the table was set for success.

All Hoskins needed was a pitch to hit, and Latz, desperately trying not to walk another batter, obliged with a first fastball up the middle.

“He has to throw 16 pitches, that’s nothing,” Hoskins said. “I don’t know if he’s tired, but he’s definitely more tired than when the half started. And if that gets you a pitch a little higher, that’s what you see a bunch of pitches before you get to the plate, that’s definitely a factor.”

At 105 mph off the bat, Hoskins threw the lefty pitches without question.

“He’s been through a stretch,” Murphy said. “He hit some balls hard, but he went through a stretch. I got emotional when he hit her because I’m so happy for him.”

Collapse of William Contreras sets up rally

Before the game, Murphy was asked about Contreras, whose route at the plate extends even further than Hoskins’.

Contreras had a .537 OPS over his last 30 games, a stretch dating back to May 19. He had a .980 OPS the previous year.

The young catcher has battled some injuries — including a bruised finger on his left hand — while playing almost every day. The wear and tear was starting to show.

There is no reason Contreras has struggled as his manager sees it.

“I think he’ll come out of it,” Murphy said. “I think he’s a young player and he’s put a lot of pressure on himself to drive and catch every day. I think his early success made his standards so high for himself that he picked up some bad habits. He doesn’t see the ball as well as he could, trying to create results instead of meeting the match in half.

“Emotionally, I think he’s a little tired, and that sometimes leads to bad decisions. And he throws it super, super hard because he was so good.”

Contreras’ struggles may start with pitch selection, which Murphy alluded to in part in his response. Its follow rate increased monthly, from 23.1% in March/April to 26.1% in May to 30.7% this month.

As a result, his exit velocity dropped from 94.2 in the first two months to 90 in June.

Throw in the fact that Contreras’ timing seems off, leading to more ground balls — his average pitch angle this month is negative 3 degrees – and you have a recipe for a drop.

So Murphy gave Contreras the day off on Sunday. On Monday, he was back in the cage more than five hours before first pitch, swinging with hitting coach Ozzie Timmons.

“You know what a warrior this kid is, and you know it wasn’t (due to) lack of work,” Murphy said. “He was there today at 1:30, hitting balls all over the place.”

Contreras finished just 1 for 4, but his swing against Lorenzen for an opposite-field double to spark the rally in the sixth was exactly the kind of laser he produced every night in the first 50 games.

More: William Contreras and Christian Yelich are on track to reach Phase 2 of the MLB ballot

Trevor Megill makes an all-star push

In his first season as an outfielder, Trevor Megill is pushing for a spot on the National League All-Star team.

Megill recorded his 16th save of the season, tied for eighth in MLB, while protecting the Brewers’ three-run lead in the ninth inning. He threw two hits, including one to Adolis García, who crushed a solo home run in the sixth.

Megill also posted his fastest pitches of the season with two fastballs clocked at 101.3 and 101.4 mph. The first was his final pitch of the day, a heater blown past García for a strikeout, and the latter got Marcus Semien to pop out.

“Just a few tweaks made this week,” Megill said of the season highs. “I feel like I’m going back to the ceiling with my fastball. I realized a few things on this last trip and I think it worked.

“It’s there. It’s just certain things with my mechanics that clicked that made it happen.”

The Brewers didn’t miss a beat with Megill as they stepped up to replace injured Devin Williams. The fourth-year pitcher converted all eight of his save opportunities in June with 12 strikeouts.

He is also 16-for-17 in save situations this season and has earned his last 10 saves.

This was Megill’s second save in as many days. He earned a strikeout in the Brewers’ 6-2 win against the San Francisco Padres the night before playing the Rangers.

“He wants it,” Murphy said. “He wants to do it, he wants it to be a significant play. He understands how his stuff plays, he understands how to pace himself, he understands the opportunity he has. He was thrust into this role.”

Given Megill’s success finishing ballgames, as well as his paltry 1.85 ERA while pitching for a first-place team, perhaps there will be a spot for him as an all-star in a few weeks.