CINCINNATI (AP) -- After J.J. Hardy missed most of last season
with a shoulder injury, the Milwaukee Brewers thought he would need
at least a half-season to regain his stroke.
The rookie shortstop is right on schedule.Hardy hit his first grand slam as he set career highs with six
RBI and four hits, and the Milwaukee Brewers had their best day at
the plate in four years as they routed the Cincinnati Reds 14-5
Wednesday."It's just one of those things," said Hardy, who raised his
overall average to .235. "I'm seeing the ball good and finding
holes. The first half was the hardest struggle I've ever had. I'm a
lot more comfortable now."Hardy is hitting .308 since the All-Star break and has five of
his six homers and 23 of his 42 RBI since then."We said all along that he would probably struggle in the first
half and take off in the second half," manager Ned Yost said.
"That's what's happened."Brady Clark, Lyle Overbay, Chad Moeller and Geoff Jenkins also
homered for Milwaukee, which scored its most runs since a 15-5 win
over Arizona on Oct. 7, 2001. The Brewers tied their season high
for home runs after being limited to one run in 10 innings of a 2-1
loss to the Reds on Tuesday."I guess we solved our tacking on problem," Yost joked.Jenkins also singled and doubled, and Clark had three of the
Brewers' 17 hits.Chris Capuano (16-9) won for the third time in four starts,
matching his season high with eight strikeouts. He allowed five
runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings.Eric Milton (7-14) gave up two of the homers, raising his total
to a major league-high 39, four shy of the career high he set last
season."Again, I'm not getting it done," Milton said. "It's
frustrating. I've been trying to figure it out all year. It's one
of those things I can't explain. I'm embarrassing myself. I'd like
to just crawl into a hole and forget what's happened."Milton, who has lost 14 games in one year for the first time
since he went 8-14 as a rookie in 1998, allowed six runs and 10
hits in three innings."It just really comes back to his command of the baseball,"
Reds interim manager Jerry Narron said. "He's making a lot of
pitches right in the middle of the zone. He needs to be fine with
his pitches and hit his spots. When he does that, he gets guys
out."Milwaukee (69-71) has its most wins in three seasons under
manager Ned Yost and has 32 road victories, one more than last
year. Cincinnati (64-75) was eliminated from contention in the NL
Central.Austin Kearns hit a solo homer in the second for Cincinnati, and
Ryan Freel hit a two-run homer in the seventh against Chris
Capuano.Clark hit his sixth leadoff homer of the season and seventh of
his career, and Milwaukee made it 5-0 in the second when Hardy hit
an RBI double and Overbay followed with a three-run homer.
Overbay's homer was his 17th of the season, one more than his total
last year, and his first since July 26.Hardy hit another RBI double in the third, Jenkins had a
run-scoring single off Josh Hancock in the fourth, and Moeller
homered leading off the sixth for an 8-3 lead.Jenkins led off the sixth against Chris Booker with his 21st
homer, and Hardy hit his slam to the opposite-field in right later
in the inning for his sixth homer of the season."Those guys have been joking with me about not having any `opp
hop," Hardy said. "I think that's my first opposite-field homer
in professional baseball."
Jenkins's home run was his 10th at Great American Ball
Park, breaking a tie with Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Aramis
Ramirez and Sammy Sosa for the most by an opponent at the
3-year-old stadium. ... The Reds have given up five homers in a
game five times on their new home field. ... The Brewers scored at
least one run in each of their first seven innings for the first
time in franchise history. They scored at least one run in each of
their first six innings on Sept. 30, 1981, against Boston at
Milwaukee. ... Reds RHP Joe Valentine left after getting hit in the
back of his right hand by Billy Hall's line drive in the seventh.
X-rays were negative, and he is day to day.