Norichika Aoki proves to be a big find for the Brewers

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Norichika Aoki’s third big-league homer — coming six innings after his second — was a walkoff blast in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday, giving the Brewers a 4-3 victory over the Cubs.

Aoki ended up with his second straight three-hit game today, making this something of a coming out party against the Cubs.

Aoki, a three-time batting champ in Japan, received very little interest from anyone other than the Brewers after saying he wanted to jump to MLB last winter. Even the Brewers might have passed if not for the looming threat of Ryan Braun’s pending 50-game suspension. Milwaukee signed the 30-year-old to a two-year, $2.5 million contract that didn’t even promise him a roster spot coming out of spring training.

Aoki went on to make the club, but he still started all of three games in April. More playing time came last month with Carlos Gomez on the DL and Nyjer Morgan struggling, and while Aoki didn’t take advantage at first, he’s been one of the Brewers’ best players the last three weeks. With Corey Hart often at first base as a result of Mat Gamel’s season-ending knee injury, Aoki has stepped in as a right fielder against right-handers and hit .343/.389/.582 in 67 at-bats since May 17.

It’s the power that’s a surprise. Aoki hit as many as 20 homers in a season in Japan, but he was all of the way down to four last year in his final season the Yakult Swallows. Imports with similar power production in Japan have tended to be singles hitters in MLB. Aoki, though, has 13 extra-base hits already in 119 at-bats for the Brewers.

The Brewers signed Aoki with the idea that he’d be their fifth outfielder. Now he may well get a shot to be a full-timer. Both of his homers today came off righties, but he’s actually hitting .341 in 41 at-bats in lefty-lefty matchups. Hart should get used to playing first base going forward.

Jeff Mathis has an avulsion fracture in his right hand

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Diamondbacks catcher Jeff Mathis has an avulsion fracture in his right hand, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. As Piecoro explains, an avulsion fracture is when a ligament comes off of the bone and pulls fragments of bone with it.

Mathis is likely done for the season, but he wants to see hand specialist Dr. Don Sheridan, per Piecoro. He suffered the injury on Monday when he was hit in the hand with a foul tip.

Mathis, 34, hit an uninspiring .213/.276/.322 in 200 plate appearances for the Diamondbacks, but was a plus defensively. Chris Iannetta and Chris Herrmann will handle catching duties with Mathis out for at least a while.

Dodgers place Cody Bellinger and Alex Wood on the 10-day disabled list

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The Dodgers announced on Tuesday that first baseman Cody Bellinger and starter Alex Wood were placed on the 10-day disabled list. Bellinger has a sprained right ankle and Wood is dealing with left SC joint inflammation. To take their spots on the roster, the Dodgers recalled pitchers Brock Stewart and Josh Ravin from Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Bellinger, 22, has had an outstanding rookie season, batting .274/.356/.612 with 34 home runs and 79 RBI in 419 plate appearances. Fortunately, the Dodgers just got Adrian Gonzalez back from the DL, so their first base situation is already handled.

Wood, 26, has had a career year. He’s 14-1 with a 2.41 ERA and a 127/30 K/BB ratio over 123 1/3 innings. He’s been successful despite his velocity declining more and more with every passing month this season. The Dodgers’ rotation is already in disarray, so losing Wood hurts even more. On the bright side, Clayton Kershaw should be returning from the disabled list soon.