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MILWAUKEE -- Don't look now, but the Brewers' reigning MVP has climbed back up the batting order and has been looking a whole lot more like himself.
Since an 0-for-12 slump from June 4-8 dropped his average to .250, its lowest point since May 6, Bill Hall had reached safely in eight straight games before Tuesday, when he went 0-for-3 but did contribute a sacrifice fly. Hall batted .444 during the stretch (12-for-27), with five RBIs and eight walks, three of them last Tuesday when the Brewers were no-hit by Detroit's Justin Verlander.
He started a new hitting streak on Wednesday, hitting a first-inning grand slam off Giants lefty Barry Zito. It was Hall's second grand slam this season and his ninth home run.
"I was kind of lying in the weeds, I guess," Hall said. "I knew there would be times when the team needed me to get some big hits, and I was just hoping that I would be available to get those hits. I never put any pressure on myself."
The clearest sign of Hall's resurgence were the walks.
"I started to 'see it' a little better in Texas," Hall said, referring to the Brewers' June 8-10 series against the Rangers. "That made me relax a little bit. And then, obviously, the at-bats I had against Verlander made me feel real comfortable. I was seeing good pitches off a guy throwing 100 mph. It made me understand I didn't have to rush so much or be so tense when I was up there hitting."
He has been hitting more and more of late, too, as manager Ned Yost has moved Hall back up in the batting order. Hall made his first 40 starts as Milwaukee's cleanup hitter, then was dropped to seventh on May 21 at Los Angeles, when Hall was hitting .261 overall and .181 with runners in scoring position.
"I had no problem with that," Hall said. "But Ned said at the time that it was a temporary thing, that I would be back up as soon as I got hot. It shows you he's a man of his word."
"His confidence is restored," hitting coach Jim Skaalen said. "That's huge for our club, because he's a key part as far as keeping innings going."
The young and the hilarious:
Chris Capuano, Hall, J.J. Hardy and Jeff Suppan became soap opera stars on Wednesday, when the scene they shot last month for "The Young and the Restless" aired on CBS.
Players gathered around the two clubhouse TVs at Miller Park and howled as it aired. As expected, Hardy took heat for his final line -- "She can warm up with me any time," he cooed -- but Capuano took even more flak when the camera caught his eyes wandering away from actress Michelle Stafford's face.
"Your mom is going to see that!" one of Capuano's teammates yelled.
"Her shirt was really blue and shiny," Capuano said.
Hall's mom, Vergie, was also watching, along with Hall's grandmother. Hall drew praise after the Brewers shot the scene from actor Peter Bergman, a veteran of soaps.
"I'm sure the text messages are already rolling in," Hall said after the Brewers turned off the television and headed out for batting practice. "Hopefully, I performed well. I used whitening strips for a whole week so I had a nice smile. It was fun."
Hardy is having a breakthrough season and has seen himself in television highlights dozens of times. But this was different.
"Way different," Hardy said. "You know how you can see someone on TV and tell that they're uncomfortable? That was me. It was still good for a laugh."
Yost heard the hooting and hollering from his office and was glad to hear the guys having a good time.
"You've got to be able to have that chemistry and camaraderie, to have fun with each other," Yost said.
Said outfielder Geoff Jenkins: "I actually thought they were pretty good."
Hardy in, then out:
The Brewers' shortstop returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing a day with a sore left hip, but left the game after three innings because of lower back tightness.
Over his objections, Hardy was held out of Tuesday's lineup with a sore hip apparently developed over the weekend in Minnesota.
"I could have played through it," Hardy said Wednesday morning. "It wasn't a big deal."
If he had his way, Hardy would play all 162 games. He has started 68 of Milwaukee's 72 games and entered play batting .282 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs.
"I'd like to," he said. "If your mind-set is to play that, then even if you've got some aches and pains, you're planning on playing and you can get through it."
Capuano, on the disabled list with a groin strain, played catch on flat ground on Wednesday morning and reported improvement.
"I haven't even felt it at all the last two days," Capuano said. "So I'm encouraged where it's going."
He will throw off a mound on Friday, and after that will participate in a simulated game. Capuano is eligible for reinstatement on Sunday but a decision is more likely later in the week.
For the record:
Yost has been criticized this season for juggling the lineup, but Brewers stats guru and batting-practice slugger Mike Vassallo found that with 45 different combinations through Tuesday, the Brewers were tied with the Phillies for the seventh-fewest
lineups this season of the 30 Major League teams. Yost employed combination No. 46 against Zito, inserting right-handed hitters Kevin Mench and Damian Miller to the mix.
Auction: Beginning Wednesday, life-sized bobbleheads of Brewers greats Jim Gantner and Gorman Thomas went up for auction on Brewers.com. The winning bidder will also get lunch with the player and game tickets as part of the package, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Brewers Charities.
Bidding continues through Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. CT. Produced by Bensussen Deutsch and Associates, the Gantner and Thomas figures each stand six feet tall and weigh 225 pounds.
On deck: Jeff Suppan (7-7, 4.69) will try to rebound from his worst start of the season when he takes the mound Friday against the Royals in an Interleague game. He surrendered nine runs on 10 hits in his last start in Minnesota, both season highs. Former Brewers left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (4-7, 5.23) will start for Kansas City.