Corey Hart's big night came because of a sudden change. Hart felt miserable in batting practice, so he switched his stance during his last warmup at-bats and fiddled with the position of his hands slightly.
Hart hit his first three home runs this season and drove in seven to tie both club records, lifting the surging Milwaukee Brewers past the visiting Washington Nationals, 11-3, last night.
"Hopefully this is a start," said Hart, with his 1-year-old son, Brye, munching on a cookie on his hip. "Hopefully I can start swinging the bat better and keep it going."
Hart was given Sunday off after being hitless in his previous 11 at-bats.
"It's been kind of rough, but it's been an experience and I've just been going out there trying to figure it out daily," Hart said. "Yesterday was a good off day to try and work on things."
Hart smacked two-run shots in the first and fifth innings off Tom Gorzelanny (2-4) to reach 100 homers for his career. He finished with a three-run homer off Doug Slaten with two outs in the eighth to become the 10th Brewers player to hit three out in a game, and the first since Geoff Jenkins in 2003 against San Diego.
Prince Fielder also homered for Milwaukee, which has won seven straight at home and 11 of the last 14 overall.
Yovani Gallardo (6-2) retired 12 straight at one point and allowed only one run - on Michael Morse's homer in the second - in seven innings.
"The most important thing was to go out there and keep that rhythm," Gallardo said. "You've got to be aggressive and stay within your game plan. I was able to do that."
Hart hit 21 homers in the first half of last season, made the All-Star team for a second time and signed a $26.5 million, 3-year extension later in the summer. But this spring was quickly derailed when he hurt his oblique in drills and his recovery took longer than expected with a frustrating rehab stint at Triple A Nashville.
"It was rough being in Triple A, being at home watching the guys. I would much rather try to figure it out here than work on things down there," Hart said. "The team has been playing better, so it hasn't really been focused on me because we've been playing well, so I think that's helped me try to figure it out a little easier. It's coming around."
The last thing lacking was his power and he had driven in just one run so far, but he hit his first shot to the opposite field in the first inning after Gorzelanny hit Rickie Weeks to start the game.
In Nationals news, general manager Mike Rizzo and catcher Ivan Rodriguez were penalized by Major League Baseball for verbally confronting umpires in a stadium tunnel after a disputed call last week.
Rodriguez was fined an undisclosed amount, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said. Courtney confirmed Rizzo was disciplined, but provided no specifics.
The Nationals were upset after Jayson Werth was called out by first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi in the ninth inning of Thursday's 1-0 loss to the Mets. Replays appeared to show Werth was safe.
In other news, Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche is headed to the DL because of a torn labrum in his sore left shoulder
In other games:
* At Houston, Hunter Pence's two-out RBI single in the ninth lifted the Astros to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros trailed 3-1 entering the ninth inning before Michael Bourn tied it with his two-out, full-count double down the rightfield line that scored two.
* At San Diego, Daniel Descalso and Ryan Theriot hit RBI singles in the ninth to lead the St. Louis Cardinals over the Padres, 3-1. Demoting leadoff batter Will Venable to Triple A Tucson didn't help San Diego, which is 8-19 at Petco Park, the worst home record in the NL.