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ATL@MIL: Fielder ruled safe on Kotsay's single

MILWAUKEE -- A night after the Brewers got on the board with their first win, their first baseman and their closer joined the party on Wednesday. So did an unheralded fill-in a few hours removed from the Minor Leagues.

Prince Fielder logged his first three RBIs of the season and John Axford his first save, giving right-hander Marco Estrada his first Major League victory and the Brewers a 5-4 win over the Braves at Miller Park.

After an 0-4 start, the Brewers have their first winning streak of 2011, and it came with some encouraging elements. Estrada proved a capable fill-in while the Brewers wait for Zack Greinke to return from his cracked rib, Axford rebounded from his Opening Day blown save and Fielder started a three-hit night with an opposite-field, two-run single for a first-inning lead that stood to the end.

"When you see something like that from 'P,'" Axford said, referring to Fielder, "you just know he's going to be on that night and everything's going to be right for him."

It was right on Wednesday for the team, too, though things got off to a rocky start.

Estrada (1-0), who made seven appearances -- including one emergency start -- for the 2010 Brewers but wasn't even invited to big league camp this spring, was summoned from Triple-A Nashville earlier in the day. He delivered six innings and had allowed only one run until dangerous Braves right fielder Jason Heyward smacked a three-run home run in the sixth to make it a one-run game.

Zach Braddock and Kameron Loe each worked a 1-2-3 inning to deliver that lead to Axford, who worked around a leadoff walk of Heyward to log his first save of the season. It also saved Estrada's first big-league win in his 23rd appearance for the Brewers and Nationals.

"I'm not going to lie, I was [nervous]," the 27-year-old Estrada said. "I just kind of talked to Rick [Kranitz, the pitching coach] a little bit and [catcher Wil] Nieves, and they told me to kind of calm down, do what I normally do. I felt much better after that."

He surrendered doubles to two of the first three hitters he faced and hits to three of the first four as the Braves took a 1-0 lead. It would have been worse had Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez not thrown out the Braves' Chipper Jones trying to score from second base.

Who knows whether the extra run would have helped calm Atlanta left-hander Mike Minor (0-1), a top prospect called up to replace the injured Jair Jurrjens. Minor walked the first three hitters he faced before Fielder poked his two-run single through the hole between shortstop and third base for his first RBIs of the season and a 2-1 lead.

Before Wednesday, Fielder was batting .176 this season and was still looking for his first hit with a runner in scoring position.

"I've been feeling good the whole time," he said. "Unfortunately, in baseball, it doesn't matter if you feel great or not. You can feel terrible and still get hits. So keeping that same approach every day, you can chalk it up at the end of the season."

Fielder's first-inning hit had Jones lamenting the Braves' missed opportunity earlier in the same frame.

"We had a chance to get two or three and set the tone for the game," Jones said. "Then they throw me out and we walk the first three batters of the game. So much for momentum."

The Brewers added a fourth-inning run on a double down the left-field line for Yuniesky Betancourt, who collected two hits for the second straight start, and two more runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Fielder and pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay.

It was Kotsay's first Brewers hit and also his first RBI, thanks to a friendly call from plate umpire Bill Miller. Fielder scored from second base on the single to right fielder Heyward, whose throw home appeared to beat Fielder. Catcher Brian McCann and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez protested Miller's ruling, but the run stood.

"Prince was definitely out," Jones said. "It turned out to be huge."

Fielder didn't say whether he thought he was out or safe, but he did take another opportunity to laud the running style of manager Ron Roenicke, who has allowed third-base coach Ed Sedar to wave players home at a pace Brewers fans have not seen since the days speedsters like Scott Podsednik and Alex Sanchez stood atop the lineup. Two batters before Kotsay's hit, Gomez was out at the plate trying to score on Fielder's RBI single.

"Ron is allowing us to be aggressive," Fielder said. "That's kind of what we were taught in the Minor Leagues, so it's good to do it again."

It proved an important piece of insurance when Heyward hit his three-run homer to right field in the next half-inning, slicing the Brewers' lead to 5-4.

Zach Braddock pitched a perfect seventh inning and Kameron Loe did the same in the eighth before Axford bounced back from his Opening Day letdown in Cincinnati six days earlier and logged his first save. He spiked a full-count curveball to Heyward to give Atlanta an opening baserunner, but didn't allow a hit and preserved the Brewers' win.

"Last year, I think the longest I waited might have been a day or two [after a blown save]," Axford said. "I was getting a little anxious out there, waiting for that opportunity to get off on a good foot this year."

After four disappointing losses, the Brewers are getting their chance.

"It was a slow start for us," Axford said. "We had to get the ball rolling, but it's the first four games of the year and we still had 158 to go. Now it's 156. These two games have been fantastic games." Comments