Jenkins hits 200th career homer
Milestone jack ties game, sets up game-winning single
MILWAUKEE -- Geoff Jenkins still remembers standing at his locker after the Brewers' home finale last September, choking back tears after a trying year.
With rumors circulating that he might be traded in the offseason, Jenkins wondered if he had played his last home game for the Brewers, the only team he'd ever known.
"I'd been here so long -- longer than a lot of guys stay with their teams," Jenkins said.
What a difference eight months make. Jenkins smashed his 200th career home run in a 6-5 win against the Twins on Sunday afternoon and earned a standing ovation from the Miller Park crowd of 39,119. Better still, he drove in Milwaukee's winning run and finished the day 3-for-4, with five RBIs.
Jenkins now ranks fourth on the franchise home run list, trailing Robin Yount (251), Gorman Thomas (208) and Cecil Cooper (201).
"Obviously, I was happy I could do it in front of the [home] crowd," said Jenkins, Milwaukee's longest-tenured active player. "It's a little more special."
Jenkins walked up to the plate in the fifth inning with two runners on and Milwaukee trailing, 5-2. He clobbered a 1-0 pitch from Minnesota starter Ramon Ortiz just over the center-field wall, tying the game.
Jenkins exchanged high-fives with J.J. Hardy and Bill Hall at home plate and clapped his hands emphatically before walking back to the dugout. But the home crowd kept roaring, and refused to die down until Jenkins' teammates persuaded him to step out of the dugout for a curtain call.
"They told me to go out and enjoy it," he said. "It's nice for your crowd to pull you out there and give you an ovation. That's something that is nice to have."
But Jenkins might have made his most important contribution of the day in the seventh inning. Facing Twins left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes, Jenkins laced a single down the left-field line to drive in the winning run. Entering the at-bat, he was hitting .130 (3-for-23) in limited opportunities against southpaws this season.
Jenkins helped Milwaukee avoid its first home sweep by the Twins since 1978.
"It was Geoff Jenkins Day here," manager Ned Yost said. "Offensively, that was as huge as it gets right there."
Things couldn't have been more different late last season for Jenkins. He hit .271 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs, the first time he didn't reach 20 home runs in a full season.
Jenkins slumped badly last August and was booed on several occasions by the home fans. The outfielder was hitting .254 on Aug. 11, when Yost made the controversial decision to bench Jenkins and give Corey Hart and Gabe Gross more at-bats.
Jenkins' name repeatedly surfaced in trade rumors during the winter, especially at the Winter Meetings in Orlando. The Dodgers and Giants reportedly were interested, but the Brewers did not pull the trigger on a trade.
Milwaukee's first-round pick in 1995, Jenkins played through some lean years, never once experiencing a winning season and losing 106 games in 2002. He's glad he stuck around for the Brewers' fast start this season, and so are his teammates.
"He's been here forever," first baseman Prince Fielder said. "His whole career has been here. He's the man here, and it's just good to have a guy like that on our team."
Jenkins stirred up some controversy during Spring Training, when he expressed his displeasure at Yost's plan to platoon him and Kevin Mench in left field this year. Jenkins, a left-handed hitter, entered the season with a respectable .244 batting average against left-handed pitching, but he hit just .133 against them last season. Mench entered the season with a career .303 average against southpaws.
Jenkins has come to accept not seeing his name in the lineup every day.
Even while splitting time with Mench, Jenkins has compiled a .310 average, with nine homers and 24 RBIs.
"It's good to have him," catcher Damian Miller said. "It's good that it worked for him to come back this year, and so far he's having a great year. He's a fan favorite, too. He's done a lot of good things for this organization. Trust me, we're all happy for him."
Kelvin Ang is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.