CINCINNATI — Kolten Wong may not have the same offensive resume as some of his teammates at the top of the Brewers lineup, but three swings of the bat Thursday night in Cincinnati gave him a feat that no other Milwaukee hitter has accomplished this season.
Wong tallied three home runs out of the fifth spot in the order and drove in all of the Brewers’ runs in the 5-1 win at Great American Ball Park. It was the first three-homer game and first five-RBI game of his career, and he set a career high with his 15th home run of the year.
“I’m definitely not a guy that you’re going to see hit three home runs very often or even multiple home runs in a game,” Wong said. “Pretty cool experience for me to soak that in. I’ve had a chance at doing that before, but [I] tried to do too much. I told myself [going up to bat in the eighth] ‘Don’t even try it.’ It’s funny how that works out.”
The second baseman didn’t take long to get started either. Batting against Reds flamethrower Hunter Greene in the second inning, Wong got his arms extended on a letter-high 98 mph fastball, depositing a two-run blast in the Brewers’ bullpen beyond the right field fence. Four innings later, Wong deposited another two-run shot in a similar spot off right-handed reliever Dauri Moreta, padding Milwaukee’s lead to 4-0.
Then in the top of the eighth, Wong put the cherry on top of his career night, jumping on a Joel Kuhnel slider and hammering it just fair inside the right-field foul pole.
When asked where it all ranked on his list of career achievements?
“Oh, it’s gotta be up there,” the 10-year big leaguer said.
The 31-year-old has put together quite the offensive showing during the past week. He’s slashing .321/.367/.821 (yes, you read that slugging right) in his last seven games with four home runs and nine RBIs.
“He’s swung the bat really well against right-handed pitching this year,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He had a really good Yankees series, [but] probably missed some pitches he thought he should have hit in the Mets series. He obviously didn’t miss balls tonight.”
That has been part of the maturation process for Wong. Through the ups and downs of his career, he’s learned to trust the work he’s putting in.
“Obviously you get mad when you have bad games or whatnot, but I’ve been trying to really focus on turning the page and understanding that what I’m doing is right,” he said. “You’re going to have your good games and your bad games, but if I keep where I’m going right now and the path I’m going, I know my swing is going to produce.”
His performance caught the eye of Reds manager David Bell as well, who coached Wong during his time as bench coach in St. Louis.
“I’ve seen Kolten play for a long time. He’s a really good player, great player,” Bell said. “But that was a special night.”
The “special” night even got Wong thinking about a goal he’s set for himself.
“I think everybody in this game eventually wants to get to a point where they get to that 100 home run mark,” he explained. “I’m still far away from it, but I’m getting closer everyday. [It’s] definitely one of those goals that I hope to reach by the end of my career.”
He currently sits just 18 home runs away.
Wong’s offensive output couldn’t have come at a better time either. It’s now or never for the Brewers if they wish to continue their season into the postseason.
Luckily for Milwaukee, they’re not in bad shape to do so. Even with St. Louis pulling away with the NL Central crown, the second and third NL Wild Card spots are still well within reach. The Brewers have a favorable schedule to do so, with 11 of their final 13 games coming against sub-.500 opponents. They also get to head home for the final nine games of the season after the weekend in Cincinnati.
With a Padres loss to St. Louis on Thursday, the Padres, Phillies and Brewers are now all within three games for the NL’s final two postseason spots.