Braun ignites Brewers--again
Maybe he shouldn’t have bothered.
The standard-issue lumber did the trick Monday night as Braun produced his second consecutive two-homer game against St. Louis. Suffice it to say the Milwaukee Brewers’ left fielder has broken free of his season-opening slump.
“(Sunday) showed it. (Monday) confirmed it,” manager Ned Yost said.
Braun’s teammates provided plenty of support with a five-run third inning, and Dave Bush recorded his first victory of the season as the Brewers rolled over the Cardinals, 8-3, at Miller Park to take three of four in the series and climb back to .500 at 19-19.
“That was an extremely big win for us, the way they’ve been playing and with their ace (Adam Wainwright) on the mound,” said Braun, who is batting .485 with four homers and eight RBI against St. Louis this season.
After hitting two homers Sunday with a pink bat designed to support the fight against breast cancer, Braun had equipment manager Tony Migliaccio send them back to Louisville Slugger to have an everyday-use black finish applied.
“There was something about those bats,” Braun said. “All the guys were saying it, even in the batting cage. They just felt right. They felt harder and the ball sounded louder coming off them.”
The ball sounded plenty loud in the first inning when Braun launched a 2-1 pitch from Wainwright 412 feet to left, landing well into the second-level stands. He jumped on a 2-1 offering from Wainwright again in the fifth, boosting his long-ball total to nine for the season.
His regular black-finish bat died a noble death after those mighty blows, splintering into pieces during a groundout to short in the seventh.
“I guess the black bats work, too,” Braun said.
Although Braun’s home-run display was impressive, Yost said it was a more modest at-bat in the Brewers’ big third inning that left him convinced his young slugger was officially out of his season-opening famine. After swinging at a first-pitch curveball in the dirt with runners on second and third and one out, Braun worked Wainwright for a six-pitch walk.
“That’s a situation where he gets so anxious, trying to drive those runs in, because he’s a run-producer,” Yost said. “That opened up a big inning for us, because it allowed the other guys to do what they do.
“When I saw that at-bat, I knew ‘Braunie’ was back to being the Ryan Braun we know.”
Bush, who pitched six solid innings (four hits, one run) for his first victory in six starts, got the rally going with a double to left. Jason Kendall followed with a single but Bush failed to tag at third on Rickie Weeks’ drive to left.
That gaffe was covered when Mike Cameron followed with a ground-rule double to left to put the Brewers on top, 2-1. After Braun walked, Wainwright gave himself a chance to escape further damage by striking out struggling Prince Fielder, but Corey Hart followed with a two-run single to left.
The rally escalated to a five-run outburst when second baseman Adam Kennedy muffed Bill Hall’s pop fly down the right-field line, allowing two runs to score.
Given that 6-1 advantage, Bush put down the Cards in order the next two innings and worked around a leadoff double by Jason LaRue in the sixth.
“That allowed me to relax,” said Bush, who held the damage during his stint to Rick Ankiel’s two-out homer in the first. “That was huge to get that run support. Nobody wants to give up runs but it does make it tougher when you’re not scoring.”
With exiled closer Eric Gagne battling to hold St. Louis to one run over the next two innings, the Brewers should have cruised to an easy victory. But left-hander Mitch Stetter created unnecessary anxiety by walking four batters in the ninth before Guillermo Mota struck out Ankiel with the bases loaded to end it.
Afterward, Braun was left to ponder which color bat to use next.
“When different bats work, that’s a good sign,” he said.
“Pink one yesterday. Black one today. Maybe a brown one tomorrow. We’ll see.”