Sogard again leads Brewers' charge in San Diego
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
SAN DIEGO--Just as Jesús Aguilar slugged his way onto the Milwaukee Brewers' opening-day roster with a torrid spring, Eric Sogard may have played his way into a more regular role with a career series at Petco Park.
“I'm going to have something to think about on the flight tonight, that's for sure,” said manager Craig Counsell, not long after watching the seven-year major-league veteran post his second 4 for 4 game in three days on Thursday.
Sogard reached base five times in all, and it was his two-run double after working a 12-pitch at-bat in the seventh inning that put Milwaukee ahead to stay in an eventual 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.
The bespectacled utility man, a career .239 hitter entering this season, was a virtual one-man wrecking crew as the Brewers took three of four from the Padres and won for the ninth time in 11 games overall.
It was his 10th-inning home run Monday that gave Milwaukee new life in a game it wound up losing on a walk-off homer by San Diego, a turn of events that made daughter Saydee a viral video star in the process.
Sogard followed that up with his first career four-hit game on Tuesday, doubling twice and driving in a run in a 6-2 victory. He went 0 for 3 on Wednesday but still contributed in the outcome by leading off the game with a walk and scoring in a tightly contested 3-1 Brewers win.
Then Sogard went crazy on Thursday, singling his first three at-bats and driving in the Brewers' first run before hitting his game-changing, two-RBI double to center in the seventh. He capped off his day by drawing a ninth-inning walk.
His line for the four-game series? How about 9 for 15 (.600) with three doubles, a homer, five RBI and four runs scored.
Sogard said he couldn't ever remember feeling this good at the plate at any time during his previous 435-game stint with the Oakland A's.
“You've just got to try to ride the wave,” he said. “You've just got to try to keep each at-bat the same, try to not do too much, focus on seeing the ball and not swing too big. Try to hit line drives all over the yard.
“Been feeling good, obviously.”
Sogard was hitting .330 with a .421 on-base percentage at Class AAA Colorado Springs when he was summoned to Milwaukee in the wake of Ryan Braun's move to the disabled list.
Counsell started him that night at shortstop, and he promptly walked twice and swung the game in the Brewers' favor for good with a sixth-inning homer against the New York Mets.
He'd logged just one pinch-hit at-bat in the next two games of that series before finding himself back in the starting lineup at shortstop Monday in San Diego. Travis Shaw's injured finger allowed Counsell to start Sogard at third base on Tuesday, and a two-day planned respite for Jonathan Villar got Sogard two more starts at second base on Wednesday and Thursday.
But Villar is expected to be back in the lineup Friday as the Brewers open a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, Travis Shaw is back at third base and Arcia is playing well at shortstop.
Does that leave room for Sogard? Knowing Counsell, probably.
Versatility is one of Counsell's most valued traits in a player. Combined with the fact that Sogard is producing both at the plate and in the field, the skipper will likely try to be creative in finding ways to get him in the game—just as he's done all season with utility man extraordinaire Hernán Pérez.
“I'm just trying to do my thing,” said Sogard, who's now hitting .588 with seven RBI and an otherworldly 1.799 OPS through six games.
“If there's a way I can help the team and he (Counsell) thinks it's best that I'm out there, then I'm happy to be out there,” Sogard said.
As if his overall play hasn't been enough, Sogard made a lasting impression on Counsell with his 12-pitch at-bat Thursday.
With the Brewers trailing, 2-1, and runners on second and third, the left-handed Sogard fell behind in the count to left-hander Ryan Buchter, 0-2. He battled back to 2-2, then fouled six of the next seven pitches off before finally winning the battle and doubling to center to make it 3-2.
“If there was a better at-bat this year in major-league baseball I'd like to see it,” Counsell said. “Because to me that's it, for sure.”
Sogard said he's felt comfortable hitting with two strikes to this point, and that he was proud he won a virtual battle of wills with Buchter.
“I tried to stay relaxed throughout. But I was feeling it toward the end of the at-bat,” he said. “I was definitely getting exhausted. I knew I probably had to put it in play soon or he would have had the upper hand.
“It was good to get the job done in that at-bat. This team continues to fight.”
Of course, nobody expects Sogard to keep up this torrid pace. But he's one of a number of players who have picked up their play so far this season and helped the Brewers surpass external expectations.
“He's been unbelievable,” Counsell said. “Two 4 for 4 games in one series probably isn't done too often. He's just been a huge boost and he's making an impact.
“He's helping us win, there's no question.”