Hunter Renfroe comes out of September funk with a huge night at the plate
CINCINNATI — Hunter Renfroe needed a game like Saturday in the worst possible way.
Limping with a .198 batting average and .582 OPS in games Sept. 21, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder hit a pair of two-run homers, had four hits and drove in five runs, a game-high the season, to spark the offense in a 10-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
It was the second huge individual performance in three games as Kolten Wong’s three-homerun outburst led the way in Game 1 of the series.
“I think we’re going to have to take it in turns offensively,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Hunter was a big part of the offense tonight and had a really, really big night. But it’s going to take different guys every night, and we know that.
“That’s what we got.”
Corbin Burnes also bounced back from a tough last start, allowing a first-inning run then stiffening up from there and facing the second-to-sixth minimum as the Brewers won their fourth game in a row.
And for the first time in a long time, Milwaukee was able to gain ground in the race for National League wildcards. With the Philadelphia Phillies losing, the Brewers moved within 1⅓ games of third place while the San Diego Padres won big late in the game.
“I’m not too worried about that,” Renfroe said. “If we ever get here and there’s champagne on the floor, we’ll know what happened. I’m not really looking forward to it. I’m just going over there and playing baseball every day.”
Burnes tied a season high with five runs allowed in 5⅔ innings in a loss to the New York Mets in his final outing.
His first inning against the Reds ended in a 1-0 deficit after a two-out walk followed by back-to-back singles.
The score of the box:Brewers 10, Reds 2
After:With 1,000 career RBIs, Andrew McCutchen of the Milwaukee Brewers joins an exclusive roster
After:Freddy Peralta to start against Reds on Sunday as Brewers rotation returns to full strength
Right-hander Graham Ashcraft, Burnes’ counterpart, folded but didn’t punch the first three innings as he was able to work around four Milwaukee singles through a pair of double-play grounders and five rushed outs in total.
He entered the game on the heels of an 11-hit, eight-run (three earned) performance during a 2⅔ inning rehab stint against Brewers’ Class AAA affiliate Nashville on Monday.
In the fourth, Ashcraft finally relented.
The hard blow was Renfroe’s first homer, a two-run shot that landed in the second deck from left that gave the Brewers a 2-1 lead. Then, after a two-out double from Andrew McCutchen, Luis Urías was hit by a pitch and Omar Narváez and Tyrone Taylor followed with scoring singles.
“There were two outs after the home run with no one and we put together a really good trade to add two more runs,” Counsell said. “It was definitely a great moment.”
Burnes settled in after that first inning, striking out 10 straight batters before Renfroe’s second two-run shot — this one off Ashcraft backup Connor Overton in the fifth — extended Milwaukee’s lead to 6-1.
The multi-home run game was Renfroe’s third of the season, but only his second since May 11, which also took place in Cincinnati. He now has 27 in total.
It was also his seventh home run at the Great American Ball Park this season, the most of any non-Reds player.
Renfroe made it a five RBI game with a single in the seventh, one of three hits in the frame as the Brewers increased their lead to 9-1.
The five RBIs were the highest for Renfroe since August 24 when he was with the Boston Red Sox and tied what he had done in September before Saturday, as did his two homers.
“It felt good,” Renfroe said. “I felt pretty good the last few days, I could see the ball well. I didn’t get the results I wanted, but I was able to get some barrels today.”
Currently ending his seventh major league season, Renfroe no longer gets rattled like he once did when the results don’t come.
“The first few years of your career, it’s kind of annoying chasing after successes and stuff like that, chasing after results,” he said. “But the older I get, it’s kind of like, ‘I can see the ball well, I take the pitches I need and it will eventually happen for me.
“I knew that going forward. And today I saw the ball well, got some barrels and was able to kick the ball (out).”
Counsell brought Burnes back in the bottom of the seventh but after allowing one walk and two singles he quickly gave way to Trevor Gott.
Burnes (11-8) allowed four hits, two runs (earned) and three walks with eight strikeouts on 102 pitches.
“They were swinging aggressively early,” Burnes said. “I had to do a better job of really getting around the area and letting them out and getting ahead in the count.
“Obviously the walks hurt me tonight. We had four rushing singles that all followed a walk. My goal as a starting pitcher is to not give up the free passes and make them win, and tonight they scored on things I gave them.”
Rowdy Tellez started the ninth with his team-leading 33rd homer against position player Alejo López to take the Brewers into double digits in the carries column for the first time since July 27.
Tellez has gone deep seven times this season against the Reds.
The Brewers are in position to record their first four-game sweep at Cincinnati since Aug. 25-28, 2003, if they can beat southpaw Nick Lodolo on Sunday.