Moustakas gives Brewers a leader
MILWAUKEE — It sounds, at first, like a long, drawn out “Booooo!”
But look at the name on the scoreboard and it becomes apparent what fans at Miller Park are really chanting.
Mike Moustakas has been a hit with fans and teammates with the Milwaukee Brewers since being acquired from the Kansas City Royals two-plus months ago. They appreciate his solid third base defense, and his left-handed power stroke was key in getting Milwaukee through the NL Division Series. In the clubhouse, his focused demeanor and extensive postseason experience have made him a source of steadiness for a club playing in the postseason for the first time since 2011.
“Amazing, amazing. He’s a great teammate,” said utility man Hernan Perez, who has a locker near Moustakas. “He’s been in this situation.”
Moustakas and current Brewers center fielder Lorenzo Cain helped Kansas City reach the World Series twice, including their championship run in 2015. Moustakas is one step away from a Series return with Milwaukee. Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers is Friday night at Miller Park.
Moustakas hit .364 in a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS with two RBIs. He had a game-ending, two-out RBI single in the 10th inning in Game 1 and an RBI single in eighth inning of Game 2 to help break open what had been a 1-0 game.
He’s a cool hand in tense moments. Exactly what Milwaukee had in mind for its midseason acquisition.
“The more experience that you can gain, the better off you’re going to be,” Moustakas said before a team workout on Wednesday.
Overall, Moustakas is hitting .234 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 34 games over eight postseason series.
“But his experience, it’s important. It really is,” manager Craig Counsell said last week. “Making sure we don’t put the result ahead of the process in our at-bats, and I think Moose is doing a heck of a job of that.”
His good friend Cain helped ease the transition to Milwaukee, but the Brewers also had to get creative to add Moustakas to the lineup, with Travis Shaw already on the team as the regular third baseman.
Someone had to move.
Shaw accepted a switch to second base, a new position and potentially awkward fit for the 230-pound slugger. The rationale was that the Brewers employ so many infield shifts, lining up at second wouldn’t be a hard transition. Moustakas also volunteered to move over.
Shaw stuck at second and has played fairly well, allowing the Brewers to have three lefty bats in the lineup to go with MVP front-runner Christian Yelich.
“It says volumes of the kind of player that he is and the kind of person he is,” Moustakas said about Shaw. “I think the unselfishness of him and this team is why I’m a good fit, because they let me come in here, play third. Just be myself and that’s huge.”
The playoff run in Milwaukee winds down an eventful year for Moustakas that started with a disappointing offseason.
After setting the Royals’ single-season home run record with 38 in 2017, Moustakas filed for free agency. He rejected a $17.4 million qualifying offer in November.
Moustakas never received the multiyear, mega-million dollar contract he and his agent Scott Boras had anticipated. The Royals signed Moustakas to a one-year, $6.5 million contract in March with a mutual option for 2019.
“It’s definitely been an interesting year, but I’m very happy with the way everything turned out,” Moustakas said last week. “I was able to sign back with Kansas City, I got traded here and now I’m in the postseason again. Everything happens for a reason. … I’m just really happy to be here.”
Counsell said Wednesday he had yet to decide on the makeup of the starting rotation or pitching staff against the Dodgers. The Brewers used a bullpen game in the Game 1 win over Colorado in the NLDS.
“We have to think about this series differently and covering the number of innings we have to cover,” he said.