Brewers' Orlando Arcia goes from forgotten man to unexpected postseason hero

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·Yahoo Sports Contributor
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The forgotten man in the Milwaukee Brewers lineup has been their shining star so far during the postseason.

Orlando Arcia, a 24-year-old shortstop who was rumored to be traded for postseason foe Manny Machado, and was actually demoted mid-season to find his swing, is putting it all together at the right time. Now the Brewers are two wins away from their first World Series appearance since 1982 thanks largely to his October breakout with the bat.

Arcia continued his surprising surge in Monday’s 4-0 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. With Milwaukee already holding a two-run lead, Arcia stepped up and delivered the dagger, swatting a two-run opposite-field home run against Walker Buehler in the seventh inning.

The homer capped the scoring and essentially secured Milwaukee’s 2-1 series lead.

Orlando Arcia’s unexpected production

It’s easy to overlook Arcia in the Brewers loaded lineup. He’s a fantastic defender. That’s why he continues getting opportunities. But he’s in a lineup surrounded by several proven run producers. A couple of whom (Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop) were brought to Milwaukee presumably to replace his bat.

Through seven October games, including Game 163 against the Chicago Cubs to decide the National League Central, Arcia has outproduced all of them. That includes likely MVP Christian Yelich, former MVP Ryan Braun, and prized free-agent signing Lorenzo Cain as well.

Monday’s home run was already Arcia’s third in six postseason games, which equaled his total in 119 games during the 2018 regular season. His three home runs not only lead the Brewers this postseason, they’ve already tied the franchise record for a single postseason.

Every October, new stars are born in Major League Baseball. That never fails. But Arcia’s postseason power surge is a strong candidate for the most unexpected October breakout in a long time.

Second half turnaround

Arcia was sent to the minor leagues on July 1 for the second time in 2018 after hitting just .197/.231/.251 in 66 games. Three weeks later, the Brewers were reportedly prepared to trade Arcia to the Baltimore Orioles in a potential Manny Machado trade.

They might be glad they didn’t now.

The refresh did him worlds of good. In 53 games after being recalled on July 26, Arcia hit .290/.320/.386.

He really hit his stride though in Game 163, according to manager Craig Counsell.

“Yeah, I think for Orlando it started in Game 163 against the Cubs,” Counsell said following Game 3 of the NLCS. “He gets four hits that day. And Orlando has always been a guy that you want to put a moment on him, put pressure on him. Put a big moment on him. Put the spotlight on him. He loves it. And I’m not surprised that he’s thriving in this playoff atmosphere. He has this love and he’s wired the right way for this kind of baseball.”

Arcia was Craig Counsell’s preferred shortstop down the stretch, but he was far from an every day player. His near elite defense gave him a leg up on guys like Moustakas, Schoop and Travis Shaw, all of whom have made a living playing elsewhere in the infield.

It’s his glove, too, that got him the first crack in the postseason, where pitching and defense are often the primary focus. However, it’s now his bat that will make it difficult for Counsell to consider going another direction.

“The home runs are probably surprising,” Counsell added. “The fact that he’s playing at a really high level throughout the playoffs, not surprising.”

The home runs are definitely a surprise. No one would have predicted those two weeks ago. But that’s the beauty of baseball. Especially baseball in October.

Milwaukee's Orlando Arcia celebrates with teammate Mike Moustakas after hitting a two-run homer in the Brewers' victory in Game 3 of the NLCS. (AP)
Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia celebrates with teammate Mike Moustakas after hitting a two-run homer in the Brewers’ victory in Game 3 of the NLCS. (AP)

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