CINCINNATI -- Who is baseball's top September slugger? Before you say Miguel Cabrera, check out what Brewers leadoff man Norichika Aoki has been doing.
Among his three hits in Wednesday's win over the Reds were Aoki's 10th home run and 36th double, giving him a Major League-best 17 extra-base hits entering Thursday. Aoki needed one more extra-base hit to tie a Brewers September record set by George Scott in 1975 and matched by Corey Hart in 2007.
Cabrera, the Tigers' slugger chasing the American League Triple Crown, had 15 extra-base hits through Wednesday night. So did Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones and Tampa Bay outfielder B.J. Upton.
"I guess I'm happy about that," Aoki said, with Kosuke Inaji translating. "I'm satisfied in that I'm able to put a better swing on pitches compared with early in the season."
The power qualifies as a surprise for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.
"I know he's been driving the ball, but, yeah [the numbers] do surprise me," Roenicke said. "Not that I didn't think he had some power, but I thought he was more of an average guy because he led the league so many times [in Japan]. I know he had some home runs there, but the ballparks are smaller and I don't know how that's going to come into play here."
Aoki's power has come in some big situations. On Sept. 9 in St. Louis, his ninth-inning home run off Cardinals closer Jason Motte forced extra innings. On Sept. 20 in Pittsburgh, the Brewers were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Aoki drilled a double off the wall, sparking a go-ahead rally. And on Wednesday in Cincinnati, his third-inning homer got the Brewers going against Bronson Arroyo.
"I think he hits to the situation," Roenicke said. "He's got enough bat control that he can do different things. He's hard to defense. I wouldn't want to defense him. He hits the ball down both lines, has power to both gaps. He's a tough one."