MILWAUKEE -- No one is more stunned by the Brewers' offensive outage than Stephen Vogt, who has seen the best and the worst of this group, all in the span of six weeks.
Vogt came from the A's via the waiver wire on June 25 and saw Milwaukee win 10 of 14 games in a stretch of two-plus weeks leading up to the All-Star break while ranking sixth in the Majors with an .855 OPS with runners in scoring position. But since the break, that has all gone away.
In Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Cardinals, Hernan Perez delivered a run-scoring single in the seventh and Jesus Aguilar smacked a pinch-hit, two-run home run with a runner at second base in the eighth, giving the Brewers their only two hits in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. It left the team with three hits in its last 46 at-bats in the clutch, including a franchise-record 0-for-33 funk interrupted by a Domingo Santana single in Tuesday's series-opening win over St. Louis.
Since the break, the Brewers are last in the Majors with a .169 batting average (21-for-124) and a .577 OPS with runners in scoring position. Only the White Sox have scored fewer runs than the Brewers' 3.5 per game.
"When teams tend to struggle with runners in scoring position, it's because [players] tend to step up and get it done themselves," said Vogt, who has spent the past two weeks on the disabled list with a left knee injury. "They don't think about, 'If I don't get it done, the guy behind me will.'
"Then it starts to become a thing. You know, no one checks the stats. No one looks and says, 'Oh man, we were 0-for-7 today.' But there's a subconscious that takes over. Like, 'Man, we haven't got that big hit in a while.' That starts to become a contagious thought. It doesn't get talked about, but everybody notices."
Individually, key Brewers hitters have gone cold. Since an 8-0 win in Washington, D.C., on July 25 -- the night the 0-for-33 with runners in scoring position kicked in -- Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Santana, Manny Pina and Orlando Arcia all have an OPS south of .700. Shaw is 4-for-24. Primary leadoff hitters Eric Sogard and Jonathan Villar are a combined 2-for-33.
Is it pressing? Are they trying too hard, as Vogt suggested?
"I don't know how to evaluate the trying too hard," manager Craig Counsell said. "That's a tough one for me to figure out. That's not what I see. We have a couple of guys struggling. I think that's part of it.
"Run scoring is sequential, guys having good at-bats and putting together a string of guys getting on base. That's something we haven't done. We've had some baserunners but not that big 'second and third with nobody out' that leads to a big inning. That's certainly what we are missing."
The Brewers hope Wednesday's late hits from Perez and Aguilar mark the start of something better.
Meanwhile, hitting coach Darnell Coles will keep urging hitters to hunt good pitches.
"It's never lack of effort. It's always trying to do a little too much," Coles said. "A lot of times you expand to the edges [of the strike zone] when you're trying to do your job. Those two at-bats are something we can look at to build on."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.