MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Brewers acquired Willy Adames with the idea he would shore up their defense and provide an energy boost in the locker room.
Little did they know how much punch he’d provide with his bat.
The Brewers had just slipped below .500 when Adames arrived along with reliever Trevor Richards in a May 21 trade that sent relievers J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen to the Tampa Bay Rays. They’ve gone 27-10 since and have won eight straight to grab a six-game lead in the NL Central.
“I love to win,” Adames said. “That’s what I’m here for.”
Adames’ stunning turnaround at the plate has played a big role in Milwaukee’s surge.
At the time of the trade, Adames was hitting just .197 with a .254 on-base percentage, five homers and 15 RBIs in 41 games for Tampa Bay. He has batted .280 with a .362 on-base percentage, seven homers and 28 RBIs in 37 games with the Brewers.
The 25-year-old Adames says he didn’t make any changes to his swing when he switched teams. Brewers officials said at the time of the trade that they believed Adames was a better hitter than his early season struggles suggested.
One explanation he offers for the power surge is that he’s no longer hitting in Tampa Bay. Adames has batted just .217 with a .275 on-base percentage at Tropicana Field, well below his career average of .257 and on-base percentage of .324.
“I was good on the road (while at Tampa Bay),” Adames said. “I just didn’t hit at the Trop. I was really good on the road, and now I feel like I’m on the road every time because I don’t play at the Trop anymore, you know what I mean?”
Over his last 12 games, Adames has hit .333 with four homers and 14 RBIs. Those four homers include a tiebreaking blast in the ninth at Colorado, a game-tying shot in the ninth at home against the Rockies, a three-run drive during a 10-run rally in the eighth against the Cubs and a grand slam off the Cubs two days later.
“Pick a great spot to hit a home run, and that’s where the home runs have come,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s what’s been truly incredible about his performance.”
Adames has made equally large contributions with his outgoing personality. When the Brewers announced the trade, outfielder Avisaíl García let his teammates know what to expect because he had played with Adames in Tampa Bay.
“That’s a guy you want to be around,” García said at the time. “Always happy, always cheering for the guys. You never see him down. We always see him working hard and playing hard. That’s what we’re getting, and I’m excited for it.”
Adames has been every bit as advertised in that regard.
“The energy he’s bringing to the Brew Crew right now is just fun,” infielder Luis Urías said. “It’s amazing.”
Adames’ impact was apparent this week as the Brewers posted their first home sweep of the Cubs since April 2013.
After the Brewers won the opening game of the series Monday by scoring 10 runs in the eighth, Adames called it “one of the best wins I’ve ever been a part of.” That’s a bold comment considering he played in the World Series last season.
When he homered as part of that big outburst, Adames celebrated in front of a crowd featuring at least as many Cubs fans as Brewers fans by producing arguably Milwaukee’s most conspicuous bat flip of the season.
“I was telling the guys, ‘This is amazing. This is the big leagues. This is unbelievable,’ ” Adames said after the game. “I said to Avi, ‘Bro, I’m living the dream. This is crazy.’ On a regular day, a Monday, to get the crowd going crazy like that? It’s unbelievable. I loved it.”
Two days later, Adames uncharacteristically made an error that helped the Cubs take a 7-0 lead in the first inning, then made up for it by hitting a grand slam as the Brewers rallied for a 15-7 victory.
“We knew since the first inning that we were going to come back,” Adames said afterward. “We had that feeling.”
That feeling has been contagious ever since Adames showed up.
Follow Steve Megargee at https://twitter.com/stevemegargee
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.