A lot of players and ex-players like to say that, when you're struggling - whether it's struggling to get hits, or struggling to get home runs - sometimes it just takes one good swing to get back on track. One good swing to find your balance and confidence. I don't know if there's any truth to that, but after Monday night, Corey Hart would probably agree.
2010 was a big year for Hart. The previously inconsistent outfielder exploded for 31 homers, 102 RBI, and an .865 OPS, and in August he was rewarded with a three-year contract extension worth $26.5 million. The Brewers were counting on Hart to provide a power bat in the middle of their lineup, and Hart looked to be up to the task.
But his 2011 got off to an ugly start when he injured his oblique in the spring. What was initially thought to be a minor speed bump turned out to be moderately severe, and Hart didn't make his season debut with the Brewers until April 26. And even still, he wasn't himself. He struggled out of the gate, and he entered play on Monday with a .604 OPS and zero home runs.
Thankfully for Hart, the Nationals exist. In his first at bat of the day, against Tom Gorzelanny, Hart clobbered a ball way out to center field for his first dinger of the season. After drawing a walk in the third, Hart came up against Gorzelanny again in the fifth and blasted another pitch out, this one to left-center. And just because two aren't enough when you're feeling good, Hart came up in the eighth against Doug Slaten and ripped a ball out to left for his third home run.
Hart became the tenth player in Brewers franchise history to hit three home runs in a game, and with the performance, he improved his OPS on the year from .604 to .768. From statistical liability to statistical contributor with a handful of swings of the bat.
Hart's three homers drove in seven runs, which were well more than Yovani Gallardo would need, as the incumbent Brewers ace allowed one run in seven innings, with nine strikeouts. It was Gallardo's fourth consecutive strong start after a rough beginning to the year. And just for good measure, a few other Brewers batters joined Hart in the slugfest, as Prince Fielder hit a solo homer, Yuniesky Betancourt drilled an RBI double, and Ryan Braun hit a pair of two-baggers. If this game ends up being a turning point for Hart, the Brewers may now get to feature the frightening lineup they were planning on over the winter.
Hart and the Brewers will try to keep mashing on Tuesday against Livan Hernandez. The Nationals, meanwhile, will look to put Monday behind them and have some success against Chris Narveson.