Kolten Wong slugs three homers, Brandon Woodruff strikes out 11 to beat the Reds

·6 min read
Brandon Woodruff takes the mound for the Brewers in the series opener against the Cincinnati Reds Thursday at Great American Ballpark.
Brandon Woodruff takes the mound for the Brewers in the series opener against the Cincinnati Reds Thursday at Great American Ballpark.

CINCINNATI -  It was a two-man show for the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.

Kolten Wong provided the offense by tying a franchise record with three home runs and Brandon Woodruff struck out 11 in six dominant innings to steal the show in a 5-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Wong went deep in the second off Hunter Greene – who otherwise shut down the Brewers over five innings – in the sixth and one final time in the eighth, giving him all five runs batted in as well as the 22nd three-homer effort in franchise history.

Aside from the Wong blasts and a single by Willy Adames, that was it for the offense.

"Four hits, Kolten has three of them and all three of them are home runs. That’s pretty incredible," manager Craig Counsell said. "Definitely a one-man-show on offense tonight, but that’s how it works.

"Hopefully you have a bunch of guys who can do damage, and tonight was Kolten’s turn."

Added Woodruff: "He supplied all the offense. Pretty cool to see. He's getting hot, and he's a fun guy to watch."

Box score: Brewers 5, Reds 1

More: Brewers' starting rotation could be back to full strength by the end of the weekend

More: Brandon Woodruff might be the best big game pitcher in Brewers history. And right now, the Brewers need it.

Woodruff, meanwhile, continued his mastery of the rebuilding Reds with his third double-digit strikeout effort in four starts against them this season. But another Philadelphia victory meant the Brewers gained no ground in the battle for the third wild-card spot in the National League, as they remain 2 1/2 games out with 12 games remaining.

While it didn't have the marquee value of Monday's Max Scherzer-Corbin Burnes matchup, Thursday's Greene-Woodruff pairing quickly evolved into a battle of strikeout artists.

Brewers' Kolten Wong  rounds third base after hitting a two-run home run, the first of his three circuit clouts on the night, during the second inning against the Reds on Thursday.
Brewers' Kolten Wong rounds third base after hitting a two-run home run, the first of his three circuit clouts on the night, during the second inning against the Reds on Thursday.

Aside from Wong's two-run blast in the second, which was sandwiched between a pair of walks, Greene allowed only the Adames single and another walk in his five innings of work.

"He's constantly getting better, every single time we face him," Wong said. "He's understanding how to use his fastball a little more consistently with that slider. He's going to continue to add and get better.

"We knew we had to get on him early, and the fastball is one of those pitches where if he leaves it over you know you can get to it. Obviously it's hard, but that's kind of what you have to sit on when you're facing someone that throws that hard."

He finished with eight strikeouts while generating a game-high 21 swings and misses with his typically blazing fastball that topped out at 101.4 mph.

Woodruff made that 2-0 lead stand up with some equally impressive stuff as he allowed only a pair of second-inning singles to consecutive batters while fanning 11 in his head-to-head matchup with Greene.

Dauri Moreta replaced Greene in the sixth and immediately walked Rowdy Tellez.

Two batters later, Wong deposited his second two-run blast over the wall in right to up Milwaukee's lead to 4-0 and give him the sixth multi-homer effort of his career and second of the season (June 5 vs. San Diego).

Cincinnati got onto the scoreboard against Woodruff when Kyle Farmer hit a two-out solo homer in the sixth, the only inning in which he failed to register a strikeout.

The damage would have been worse had it not been for Hunter Renfroe's catch of Jonathan India's fly ball to right, on which he came up throwing and was able to double TJ Friedl off first one batter prior to Farmer.

Woodruff (12-4), at 96 pitches at that point, was pulled in favor of Peter Strzelecki having allowed three hits, the lone run and two walks while his 11 strikeouts gave him his third consecutive double-digit effort in that department and the 17th of his career – one away from tying Yovani Gallardo for second-most in Brewers history.

"It starts with rhythm, timing and pitching delivery – simple stuff," Woodruff said when asked about his current run of success. "I'm for the most part able to get ahead, throw the ball where I want to. I still don't do it all the time, but I'm consistently getting ahead more.

"The off-speed stuff, keep it down. Elevate the four-seam, run the two-seam in. I think it's just getting ahead. It's what you want to do as a pitcher, you try to get them swinging early and I've been able to do that.

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Wong's solo shot off Joel Kuhnel in the eighth gave him 15 homers on the season, a new career high. His five RBI were a single-game career high as well.

"It's got to be up there," Wong said when asked where the three-homer game resided on his list of personal accomplishments. He now has eight hits and nine RBI since Sunday.

"I'm definitely not a guy that you're going to see hit three homers in a game, or even multiple homers in a game, very often. Pretty cool experience for me to soak that in. I've had a chance at doing it before and tried to do too much.

"Going up there (the last time), I told myself, 'Don't even try it.' It's funny how that works out."

The last Brewers player to homer three times in a game was Christian Yelich against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 15. 2019.

He also became just the third second baseman in franchise history to slug three homers in a game, joining Aaron Hill (May 7, 2016, also at Great American Ball Park) and Dale Sveum (July 17, 1987 vs. California).

With 82 career homers, the soon-to-be-32-year-old Wong should have a shot at hitting triple digits, although whether he does it in a Milwaukee uniform remains to be seen as he has a club option for $10 million for 2023 with a $2 million buyout.

"I think everybody in this game eventually wants to get to that point where they get to that 100-homer mark," he said. "I'm still far away from it, but I'm getting closer every day and it's definitely one of those goals that I hope to reach by the end of my career and something I'd be proud of, for sure."

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Kolten Wong slugs three homers to help Brewers beat the Reds