MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun and the Brewers were waiting patiently for a night like this.Braun snapped a long hitless streak with a home run and a triple, and Milwaukee's previously slumping offense scored nine runs in a three-inning flurry on Saturday for a 9-4 win over the Rockies at sold-out Miller Park. "I don't know what you guys were worried for," Rockies shortstop and Braun buddy Troy Tulowitzki told some local reporters. "Braunie's going to be just fine." As usual, Braun showed impeccable timing. He'll be presented with his National League MVP Award in a Sunday afternoon ceremony designed to let Brewers fans celebrate an award Braun received at a banquet in New York in January. Sunday's event might have had a slightly different tenor had Braun been 0-for-the-homestand. That's exactly what he was before stepping to the plate in the sixth inning Saturday -- hitless in 16 at-bats with nine strikeouts since the Brewers slumped home from Atlanta. Braun broke free against Rockies reliever Esmil Rogers, driving a 440-foot, tying home run, then followed-up with an RBI triple in Milwaukee's game-breaking, six-run seventh inning. Now Braun can hold up his MVP trophy with a bigger smile on his face. "I'll enjoy it a little more knowing that we won today and I finally got a hit," Braun said.
The Brewers' bats came alive after being shut down for four innings by young Rockies left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who retired the first 12 hitters he faced and appeared bent on becoming the second Major Leaguer to throw a perfect game on Saturday.Instead, the Brewers took advantage of Pomeranz's faltering command for two runs in the fifth inning, scored again in the sixth on Braun's tying homer and added six more runs in a decisive seventh inning to seal the win. Braun and another slumping All-Star, second baseman Rickie Weeks, each delivered RBI triples in the Brewers' big inning, and Alex Gonzalez hit a three-run home run. It was a sudden and long-awaited breakthrough for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "I don't know why you bust out when you do, but we've been needing an inning like that," Roenicke said. After Braun's homer tied the game at 3, Rogers surrendered three more hits in the seventh inning, including a welcome RBI triple by Weeks, who was hitless in his last 12 at-bats before hitting a drive high off the wall in right-center field. Carlos Gomez added insurance with an RBI single, Braun greeted reliever Edgmar Escalona with an RBI triple and Gonzalez capped the rally with his third home run of the season, a three-run shot that just cleared the left-field fence into the Brewers' bullpen. It was the sort of breakthrough Braun had predicted the night before, when he cited players' track records as reason to avoid April panic. In reality, he needed a night like this, too. "Absolutely," Braun said with a smile. He admitted to pressing to break out. That led to swings out of the strike zone, which led to outs. "I think that's the biggest issue -- once you start struggling, you start trying too hard," Braun said. "This game is hard enough as is. Once you start doing that, you get yourself in more trouble. Hopefully, a game like this tonight, collectively, it will get us out of our little funk." The rally came too late for Brewers right-hander Marco Estrada, who was outstanding over five innings in his first start for the injured Chris Narveson. Estrada struck out the side in the first inning, and had already set a career high for strikeouts (eight) by the end of the fourth, when Troy Tulowitzki snapped a scoreless tie with a two-out, two-strike solo home run. That was one of only two Rockies hits and the only run over five innings against Estrada, who notched nine strikeouts and no walks before hitting his limit. He threw 78 pitches in his first start since Spring Training. "He did just what he did for us last year," Roenicke said. Estrada made seven effective starts in 2011 while Zack Greinke and Narveson were injured. "'Luc' and I were on the same page today," Estrada said, referring to catcher Jonathan Lucroy. "I'm not a strikeout pitcher." Estrada admitted he was beginning to wear down in the fifth inning. He's been bothered by the virus sweeping through the Brewers' clubhouse, and he had not started a game since the final week of Spring Training. Estrada will continue to start in Narveson's spot. Jose Veras pitched a scoreless seventh inning for his second Brewers win, and Tim Dillard limited the Rockies to Todd Helton's solo homer over the final two frames.
The teams will play the series rubber match at 1:25 p.m. CT on Sunday, a special start time because of the Braun ceremony."Every day, we knew we were going to be OK. The offense was going to be there," Veras said. "These guys have been working so hard, and it's better to get it now than later. They know what they're doing. We didn't even talk about it." Said Braun: "Hopefully, tonight was just the start for us."