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NYM@MIL: Peralta stymies Mets in eight shutout frames

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun hit as many home runs -- two -- as rookie right-hander Wily Peralta surrendered hits over eight scoreless innings on Sunday, and the Brewers kept right on rolling.

They beat the Mets, 3-0, on a milestone day for Braun, who was less interested in talking about hitting his 200th career home run in the fourth inning, or his 40th home run of the season in the sixth, than about the Brewers' improbable bid for a National League Wild Card.

He also wanted to talk about Peralta.

"I look at his stuff, I don't know how he's not the top prospect in baseball," Braun said. "He's got dominant stuff. There are very few guys who have stuff like that in Major League Baseball."

Peralta surrendered just two singles and did not walk a Mets batter until the eighth inning for his second career victory and his first at Miller Park. The Brewers have won each of his three career starts as part of a magical late-season run in which they have won 20 of 26 games overall and 19 of their last 22 at home.

When John Axford recorded his 29th save, the Brewers were guaranteed to remain 2 1/2 games out of the NL's second Wild Card because the two teams for that spot as of Sunday morning -- the Dodgers and Cardinals -- were playing each other in Los Angeles. Milwaukee's win also helped the club leapfrog over Pittsburgh in the Wild Card standings, as the Pirates lost to the Cubs on Sunday.

So Peralta took the mound on something of a strange day. The Brewers would either stand their ground in the race for the postseason, or lose ground on the leaders.

Thanks largely to Peralta, they accomplished the former.

"I'm getting more comfortable here," Peralta said, "and I'm getting better every time out there."

Aramis Ramirez also homered Sunday -- on his bobblehead day - and the Brewers improved to 12-1-2 over their last 15 series at Miller Park. They have not lost a series at home since July 26-29, when the Nationals took three of four and Zack Greinke was shipped to the Angels.

A lot has changed since then, most notably the Brewers' place in the standings. They were 11 games under .500 after that series loss to Washington, and fell to 12 games under and 12 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card by Aug. 19. That's when the Brewers began their 20-6 surge.

The Brewers have mounted their climb into contention with a slew of young pitchers, including Peralta. Only one of the two Mets singles left the infield, and Peralta needed only 82 pitches through seven innings, including just 24 balls to the first 23 Mets batters.

He doubled in the bottom of the seventh inning for his first Major League hit, then appeared to struggle in the eighth. Peralta went to a three-ball count against three consecutive hitters including Mets catcher Josh Thole, who walked.

Peralta escaped, and Axford converted his 11th consecutive save opportunity to finish the win.

"[Peralta] pitched very well," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "He's got a live arm, command of his breaking ball. I was very impressed. He pitched inside when he wanted to. Threw the ball great."

Did the Mets' unfamiliarity play a part?

"I think it had a lot to do with it," Collins said. "But he's also got great stuff."

Peralta struck out five batters -- including Lucas Duda in the second inning for the 1,259th strikeout by a Brewers pitcher this season, a franchise record. Milwaukee is challenging a Major League record set by the 2003 Cubs, who whiffed 1,404 opponents.

"It doesn't get much better than that," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Peralta. "It's overpowering stuff with movement, down, and a tremendous slider. Really, that's as good as it gets."

The stuff has never been the issue for Peralta, who sits easily in the 96-mph range with his fastball. The issue has long been command, something he addressed with a mechanical adjustment just before his promotion to Milwaukee.

The Brewers planned to use September to evaluate Peralta's candidacy for next year's starting rotation. The team's sudden surge means they are doing so amid a postseason push.

"I've been working all season long on my command," Peralta said. "Since I got here, I'm trying not to do too much. Just throw the ball and follow the pitch, and I've got way better command than I had in Triple-A. ... I'm just going to enjoy my time here and do the best I can. That's what I've been doing, and I'm pretty excited about the way that I've been pitching."

Losing pitcher Chris Young was burned by the Brewers' trio of home runs in his first Miller Park start since he pitched for the Padres in September 2008.

The 6-foot-10 right-hander allowed three runs on five hits in 6 2/3 innings.

"He always impresses me," Braun said. "He's always been good. He's one of those guys who is really deceptive. He throws a fastball that's really difficult to get on top of. He's got above-average command, he doesn't walk guys, he rarely gets himself in trouble. He certainly threw the ball well today -- we only got a few hits against him but we were able to make those few hits count."

The Brewers have 16 games left on the regular season schedule, the next 10 on the road against fellow Wild Card contender Pittsburgh, then NL East-leading Washington and NL Central-leading Cincinnati.

"Going into this road trip, it was real important to win today," Roenicke said. "This road trip is going to be tough, and we know it."

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