Dinger de ja vu: Braun boosts Brewers
Slugger drills two home runs in second straight game
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers slugger Ryan Braun answered questions through a big smile for the second straight day. So did starter Dave Bush, for the first time all season."I haven't had a whole lot to smile about," said Bush, the Milwaukee right-hander who was winless this season and already had been to the Minor Leagues and back. "It's a huge help to get run support early in the game." Braun played a part in that, belting a pair of home runs for the second straight game, and so did Bush, yanking a double to spark a five-run inning in the Brewers' 8-3 win over the Cardinals on Monday at Miller Park. Bush (1-4) surrendered a two-out solo home run three batters into his outing, but he blanked the Cardinals over the rest of his six innings for his first win this season and just his second win in 11 starts dating to the end of last year. The Brewers, who entered their weeklong homestand on a six-game losing streak, took three of four from the National League Central-leading Cardinals. "All year, we've put a lot of pressure on our pitchers by not scoring many runs," said Braun, who scored three times and suddenly leads the Brewers with nine home runs. "This," Braun said, referring to the eight-run, nine-hit, three-homer outburst, "is what we anticipated doing all year long." Entering play Monday, the Brewers had batted .217 over their previous nine games while hitting .183 with runners in scoring position and scoring 3.1 runs per game. On Monday, Milwaukee went off against one of St. Louis' best pitchers, sending Adam Wainwright (3-2) to the loss after he allowed eight runs -- six earned -- on eight hits. "It was a matter of time, I guess," Bush said. "Our hitters are talented, and whatever slump they go through, you know it's not going to last long." Brewers manager Ned Yost was most encouraged not by the Brewers' three home runs -- two by Braun and one from third baseman Bill Hall -- but by a walk in the middle of a five-run rally started by Bush's double in the bottom of the third inning. Braun drew that walk, with runners at second and third and one out. Two batters later, Corey Hart hit a two-run single. The Brewers tacked on two more runs when second baseman Adam Kennedy bobbled Hall's popup down the right-field line and sent it bouncing into the stands. "That opened up a big inning for us right there," Yost said of Braun's free pass. "We ended up scoring a bunch of runs after that. That was a key at-bat right there. When I saw that at-bat, I knew Braun was back to being the Ryan Braun that we know." Wainwright pointed to Hart's hit as the game's turning point. "It all comes down to Hart in the third inning," Wainwright said. "If I get Hart right there, it's a 2-1 ballgame and it's a completely different game." Bush appreciated all the offense. It has been in short supply this season. "It does make it a little tough when you're not scoring, just like it makes it tough for the offense when you're not pitching well," Bush said. "It goes hand-in-hand." Bush threw 92 pitches, 59 of them strikes, and pounded the inner half of the plate. That marked a bit of a departure from the philosophy espoused by Yost and other coaches -- to own the low-and-away strike and work from there -- and more of a return to the way Bush worked when he joined the Brewers for the 2006 season. Bush has downplayed that philosophical difference, but he has been working on the adjustment for some time. He first mentioned it on April 15, after he surrendered three runs in six innings of a loss to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. "I like staying on the attack to both sides of the plate, and I felt like there were times that we were encouraged not to," Bush said. "It's something we've talked about as a staff and with the coaches, as far as taking maybe a slightly different approach after the game. I think the last couple of days we have done that and had good results." Said Yost: "His strength is really inside, and I think we've been trying to get him to command the outside part of the plate a little bit more than he was comfortable with. It opened up his game today." Brewers relievers were not as sharp. Eric Gagne, taking a break from the closer role, was pitching before the eighth inning for the first time in more than six years when he relieved Bush in the seventh on Monday. Gagne worked around a leadoff walk in that inning and held St. Louis scoreless on nine pitches. Then he was asked to pitch the eighth and labored, allowing a run on three hits and a walk while throwing 28 more pitches. Left-hander Mitch Stetter took the ninth, and he could only record two outs. He walked four batters, including .114 hitter Jason LaRue to force in a run. Stetter threw 21 pitches, only five of them strikes, before Guillermo Mota was called into the game to record the final out. Mota notched his first save.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.