Villar's homers propel Brewers past Rangers in series opener
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Milwaukee Brewers hoped they were getting a stolen base threat when they acquired infielder Jonathan Villar from the Houston Astros last November. It turns out they got a budding power hitter, too.
Villar, the major leagues' stolen base leader, hit his 17th and 18th home runs and had a career-high five RBIs and Matt Garza beat his former team as the Brewers defeated the Texas Rangers 8-3 on Monday night.
"I don't think about that," Villar said of hitting homers. "I need a base hit because I need more stolen bases."
Villar has 59 steals, one more than the Cincinnati Reds' Billy Hamilton. He would become the franchise's third stolen base champion, joining Scott Podsednik in 2004 (70) and Tommy Harper in 1969 with the original expansion Seattle Pilots (a club-record 73).
Villar said manager Craig Counsell has told him he could develop into a 30-homer hitter.
"I'm surprised by how much we've already seen it," Counsell of Villar's power. "What he's doing is rare, for sure."
Villar also doubled. He went into Monday's game having gone only 3 for 35 in his previous 11 games.
The Brewers clinched fourth place in the NL Central.
Garza (6-8) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings. He spent the second half of the 2013 season with Texas as a rental acquisition from the Chicago Cubs, going 4-5 with a 4.38 ERA. It was Garza's first appearance against Texas since 2010.
"I take it as this is our playoff right here," said Garza, who won a must-win Game 3 in the Division Series for the Tampa Bay Rays in his most recent appearance at Globe Life Park in 2010. "They're a good team, and you want to go out there and perform."
FAMILIAR FACES IN A DIFFERENT PLACE
Monday's game was a reunion for former Brewers Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress, who were traded to Texas on Aug. 1.
Lucroy, who played 6 1/2 seasons for Milwaukee, went 1 for 4. Jeffress made his first appearance since being reinstated Friday from the restricted list. He was arrested on a drunken driving charge in Dallas on Aug. 26 and was sent to an inpatient rehab clinic. Jeffress retired all four batters he faced.
"Getting this one out of the way is going to be pretty good for the next one," Jeffress said.
"He deserves to enjoy what's going on here and deserves to be a part of it," Counsell said. "And he's going to help them."
IGNORE THE MAN IN THE LOUD JACKET
Counsell (Notre Dame graduate) will pay off a friendly college football wager with pitcher Corey Knebel (University of Texas) on the team's final flight of the season, from Texas to Colorado late Wednesday night. He'll wear Knebel's burnt-orange college letter jacket.
Counsell said when his Irish beat the Longhorns in September 2015, Knebel and fellow Longhorn Taylor Jungmann had to wear one-piece Notre Dame pajamas on the team flight from Milwaukee to Miami.
"This is payback," Knebel said.
The Brewers scored in every inning in which their leadoff hitter reached and didn't score in innings in which the leadoff man failed to get on. . Milwaukee, an AL team from 1969 through 1997, is 11-7 against AL teams this season.
Brewers: Jungmann won't pitch again this season after suffering a hip abductor during his start last Saturday night, which was his first in the majors since April.
Rangers: OF Shin-Soo Choo (left forearm fracture) had three hits and two walks batting in all seven innings of an Instructional League game on Monday. Manager Jeff Banister said he hopes to get RHP Tony Barnette (strained oblique), who last pitched on Sept. 4, into Tuesday night's game.
Brewers RHP Jimmy Nelson (8-15) leads the NL in losses after getting off to a 3-1 start. Rangers RHP A.J. Griffin (7-4) lasted only 1 2/3 innings last Tuesday in Anaheim, allowing three hits and four walks. If Texas elects to go with four starters in the Division Series, Griffin is a contender for the final slot.