Duo powers Brewers to fourth straight
Braun, Hart combine for nine hits and seven RBIs in win
MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun has been taping up his left wrist after games since injuring it in Triple-A Nashville earlier this year.
But the bandage was nothing to worry about, he assured. Braun called the routine strictly precautionary and said his wrist hasn't affected his swing.
"If it did, it affected it in a good way," he joked.
Corey Hart, on the other hand, has tried a new routine lately, sporting a full, straggly beard his last few games.
"It's staying for a while," Hart said. "Hopefully, it's there until October. It'll be kind of ugly, but if we're winning with it, I'm staying with it."
Whatever works for the pair of young sluggers. Braun and Hart each homered and combined for seven hits and seven RBIs on Friday night, blasting the Brewers to an 11-6 romp over the Royals before 36,328 fans at Miller Park.
Milwaukee kicked off its final Interleague series of the year with its fourth straight victory, and its eighth in the last nine games. Braun sparked the Brewers' offensive fireworks early on and finished with career-best totals of four hits and three RBIs. Hart then put Kansas City away with a late homer that gave him a season-high four RBIs.
"Hitting is very contagious," Hart said. "Everybody's just chipping in, and it's just going well for us."
Braun started things with a solo shot in the first inning off former Brewer Jorge De La Rosa, the fifth of the year for Braun.
The Royals scratched out two runs in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game, 2-2, but the Brewers pulled ahead for good with a four-run rally in the bottom half of the frame, capped by Braun's two-run double into the left-field corner.
The 23-year-old third baseman finished 4-for-4 with a walk and a career-high two stolen bases, and he's now hitting .333 with five homers and 16 RBIs.
"He can hit -- I don't know what to say," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "He showed that he could hit in college. He showed that he could hit in the Minors. He showed that he could hit in Spring Training. I wouldn't have put him right in the three-hole if I didn't think he could."
Milwaukee bashed De La Rosa (4-9) for seven earned runs on 10 hits and two walks in five-plus innings.
The Brewers' offensive outburst let starter Jeff Suppan (8-7) off the hook, after Suppan turned in another subpar performance to continue a string of poor starts. The right-hander allowed five earned runs on nine hits and two walks in five innings, striking out five.
Suppan has gone 3-5 with a 6.96 ERA in his last nine starts, after racing out to a 5-2 record with a 2.63 ERA over his first seven.
"I felt my location was much better," Suppan said. "I still made some mistakes down the middle, but that's going to happen. It's a matter of making the next pitch after that."
The Royals battled back in the fifth inning with a three-spot off Suppan, slicing their deficit to 6-5. The Brewers tacked on another run in the sixth, though, and Hart then effectively ended the comeback with a opposite-field, three-run blast in the seventh.
Hart finished 3-for-5. The lanky outfielder has flourished in the 17 starts he has made in the leadoff spot this month, batting .361 (26-for-72) with seven home runs, 17 RBIs and 19 runs scored during those games.
"He's really been a real big catalyst for us up there," Yost said. "He's got tremendous power that he exhibited tonight.
"I've always thought Corey was going to be a 20-to-25-a-year home-run hitter."
Hart and Braun even flashed a little speed and slyness on the basepaths in the sixth inning, even if it didn't eventually lead to any runs. Hart reached on an error and then proceeded to dash around second base to third on a De La Rosa wild pitch.
Two batters later, Braun walked but noticed the Royals had left second base unmanned, with shortstop Tony Pena, Jr. visiting De La Rosa on the mound. Braun promptly motored into second base for the easy stolen base.
The Brewers eventually stranded Braun and Hart on the basepaths, but Yost praised his young players for their mental acuity.
"We have more speed that we've had in the past, and we always want to take advantage of any situation where we can get an extra base," Hart said.
Yost frequently tinkered with his lineup earlier in the season, but it appears the Brewers have found a groove with Hart hitting leadoff and Braun slugging away in the No. 3 hole. Braun has assumed a run producer's role ever since he arrived in the Majors, but Hart has had to acclimate himself to the leadoff spot.
After all, Hart, who has hit nine homers, always used to bat lower down in the batting order in the Minors, where his managers expected him to drive in runs.
But he surely can't complain about the results the move has generated.
"I'm not questioning anything," Hart said. "Anywhere that I'm in that lineup, if I'm in there everyday, I get comfortable and I don't think [my hitting] will change much."
Kelvin Ang is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.