Playoffs could kick-start Hart
Slumping Brewers outfielder will keep swinging away
PHILADELPHIA -- Wednesday's Game 1 of the National League Division Series marked the beginning of a new season of sorts for Brewers right fielder Corey Hart, who probably could use a fresh start.
Hart was penciled into his usual spot in the batting order -- sixth -- by manager Dale Sveum, who's looking to move on from perhaps the personal low note of Hart's All-Star season. With the Brewers trailing the Cubs on Sunday, 1-0, with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning and a postseason spot on the line, Hart fanned at three consecutive sliders from right-hander Michael Wuertz, each farther from the strike zone than the last.Sveum conceded it was one of the Brewers' worst at-bats of the year. "The thing about Corey is he's probably got the whole top 10," Sveum said. "Corey knows that. He knows what he is, and I'm not saying anything behind his back. We have running jokes about his approach to hitting. He's a poor man's Vlad Guerrero." Guerrero is the famously free-swinging Angels superstar. "He's ready to hit," Sveum said of Hart, who swung at more first pitches this season than any other Major Leaguer. "That's the easiest way to put it. He's ready to hit every pitch. He ain't guessing. That's what makes him good, and sometimes he struggles with that approach." Hart struggled for much of the second half. He was voted to the National League All-Star team by fans after hitting .289 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs, then batted .239 after the break with five homers and 33 RBIs in about 100 fewer at-bats. Hart was no eager to discuss his at-bat against Wuertz. "I don't like to look back at something like that," Hart said before batting practice on Wednesday. "Let's look forward." Hart went 1-for-4 in the Brewers' Game 1 loss, singling off Cole Hamels in the fifth inning for Milwaukee's first hit. But Hart missed a key opportunity in the ninth, when the Brewers scored their only run and moved runners to second and third base against Phillies closer Brad Lidge. The tying run was in scoring position and Hart represented the go-ahead tally, but he struck out to end the 3-1 loss. Sveum believes hitters like Hart can snap out of slumps easier because they are always swinging away. He also believes Hart's personality is prone to a bounce-back. "He's from the Appalachian Mountains, but you would think he's Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High," said Sveum, who was full of references on Wednesday. Actor Sean Penn played unflappable surfer dude Jeff Spicoli in the 1982 film, which was released five months after Hart was born. Might the two-day break have helped Hart? "It can't hurt," Sveum said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.