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ATL@MIL: Heyward homers into the second deck in right

MILWAUKEE -- This is not what the Braves had in mind when they left New York.

After sweeping the Mets, they arrived in Milwaukee on a roll. The Braves had won five in a row and looked to continue distancing themselves from the rest of the National League in the Wild Card race. And maybe even gain ground on the first-place Nationals in the NL East.

Three games later, including an 8-2 loss Wednesday night, the Braves have done just the opposite. They were swept by the Brewers, ended the trip with a disappointing 3-3 mark and dropped to 8 1/2 back in the division.

But the good news for the Braves is they maintained their 5 1/2-game lead over the second Wild Card.

"We're lucky to be where we are," Chipper Jones said. "We're in the same position that we were at the beginning of the day. ... I'd much rather be 5 1/2 games up than 5 1/2 games back."

For the third straight game, one big inning was the key for the Brewers.

With a 2-0 Braves lead entering the frame, Paul Maholm surrendered eight runs, six earned, in the fifth. A three-run homer by Rickie Weeks put the Brewers in front, and they were far from done at that point.

Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Lucroy added three straight singles, and a pair of doubles by Travis Ishikawa and Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo helped put five more runs across. Maholm exited following the Ishikawa double, and the 4 1/3 innings marked a second short outing in three September starts for the lefty.

"I can't say I like this place," Maholm said. "I'm kind of glad to be out of here and not coming back this year. And hopefully once next year and we're done with them."

All but two of the Brewers' 17 runs in the series came in three innings -- one per game. They scored four in the seventh Monday, three in the seventh Tuesday and eight in the fifth Wednesday.

"I've been saying this entire season that you blink and we've got five runs in an inning," Ishikawa said. "I'm not used to seeing that a ton, and it's fun to watch this offense. It's fun to be a part of it, too, but even from the bench it's fun to see how quickly our entire offense can put runs on the board."

On the mound, Gallardo gave up a no-doubt home run to Jason Heyward in the first, but limited the Braves to just one more run on three additional hits through seven innings. Beginning with a crucial double play in the fourth inning, Gallardo settled in late, retiring eight in a row at one point.

Much like Tuesday's loss, the Braves struggled to even create opportunities to score Wednesday against the Brewers' ace. Outside of Heyward's homer -- his 26th -- the only Braves runner to reach third base was Jones in the fourth inning, when he later scored.

In fact, Heyward's blast was the Braves' only extra-base hit of the series. Their other 19 hits were all singles.

"We need to get our guys going offensively," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, "score some runs like we're capable of doing."

Over the three-game series, Atlanta went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, left 19 runners on base and managed to score just three runs. Heyward's solo homer also provided the team's only RBI over the three-game series.

After the off-day Thursday, the Braves will look to get the offense back on track for a big home series against the Nationals.

"Right now, we've got to try and win series," Heyward said. "The attitude doesn't change, because every day you come to the field and not think about the last game or the next game. [You are] thinking about that game, trying to win that one.

"If we take care of business that way every time, then we'll be OK. We'll be able to be in the playoffs and have a chance to go further."

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