Braun's big night gives Burns, Crew win
Slugger drives in four runs as righty gets first win in Majors
MILWAUKEE -- It took him 48 appearances for four Major League teams in three seasons, but Mike Burns finally has a win on his record.Burns pitched 6 2/3 strong innings for his first Major League victory, and Ryan Braun drove in four runs and scored another as the Brewers doubled up Johan Santana and the Mets, 6-3, on Tuesday night at Miller Park. "I've bounced around. That's the life of a middle reliever," said Burns, a 31-year-old right-hander who had pitched in the big leagues for the Astros, Reds and Red Sox before signing a Minor League deal with the Brewers over the winter. "[The win] is special, it really is." Burns (1-1) didn't allow a run after David Wright's two-run homer in the first inning, and Jason Kendall, Trevor Hoffman & Co. gave him the traditional Milwaukee salute -- a postgame shower of Miller Lite. The suds would eventually be washed away, but the game ball perched on the top shelf of Burns' locker was there to stay. "That's not going anywhere," Burns said. He needed help and it came mostly from Braun, who led the Brewers back from an early 2-0 deficit. Braun hit an RBI single in the third inning, then cleared the bases with a three-run double in the fourth and finished the trip around the bases thanks to a throwing error charged to Santana (9-6). The error wasn't the only thing charged to Santana, who was saddled with six runs, five of them earned, on nine hits and four walks in six-plus innings. Five of the Brewers' hits off Santana and three of the walks came in the third and fourth innings, but Prince Fielder added insurance with a long solo home run in the seventh, Fielder's team-best 20th home run this season. Corey Hart and Braun had three hits apiece, and the top four hitters in the lineup combined to go 9-for-17 with five runs scored and five RBIs. "We were able to get some big hits," Braun said. "Sometimes when you face a great pitcher like that, you need a break or two." The Brewers (42-35) got a couple of breaks in the decisive fourth inning. The first came with one out when Santana uncharacteristically walked Burns on four pitches. Hart followed with a fly ball to center field that should have been the second out, but Mets outfielder Fernando Martinez slipped on a loose piece of turf and the baseball fell for a lucky double. J.J. Hardy followed with another walk that loaded the bases for Braun, who had lined an RBI single in the third inning. This time, he reached out for a changeup and hooked a double to left field for three more RBIs. Braun broke for third on the throw home, where the ball got away from catcher Omir Santos, and Santana, who was backing up the play, threw wide of third base. The error allowed Braun to trot home for a 5-2 Brewers lead. After the inning, Santana was noticeably upset in the dugout following the sloppy play.
"It wasn't about frustration, it was more about letting everybody know we needed to play better baseball," Santana said. "If we don't play better baseball, we're not going to win. If we don't make routine plays, if we don't execute it the way it's supposed to be executed, if we don't pitch the right pitch, we're not going to win."
"Their guy falling down, the error, all of those things came back to haunt them," Braun said. "Johan is not going to make too many mistakes. He's not going to give up too many runs, so you have to take advantage of every mistake that they make."Santana struck out Braun to end the sixth inning, but Braun again got the upper hand. Including three hits on Tuesday, Braun is an impressive 7-for-13 against Santana in his career. "It's nearly impossible. I doubt there are too many guys who have had any type of prolonged success against him," Braun said. "You just go out there and battle, you compete every pitch, and that's what we did today. We were able to get some big hits." Burns made those hits stand up. "He pitched great," Braun said. "It's awesome to get him his first win. Well-deserved. It's important to have guys be able to step up and throw the ball well, like he has for us. You're never going to get through the year with five starters." Burns had to settle in after a long first inning. Five days after losing to the Twins in his first Major League start, Burns walked Mets leadoff man Alex Cora. Two batters later, Wright connected for an opposite-field home run, just his fifth homer this season. "Sooner or later, I'll figure out how to throw strikes to the first batter of the game," said Burns, who also walked Minnesota's leadoff man on June 25. "First inning I was still a little antsy, flying open a little bit. Once I gave up the two-run home run, I thought, 'I have to keep them right there for us to have a chance.'" Gary Sheffield followed with a single, but Burns then faced only two batters more than the minimum over his final 6 1/3 innings of work. He limited the Mets (37-39) to two runs on five hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Manager Ken Macha provided more statistical fodder. "I'll give you a few numbers," Macha said. "He walks the first hitter and then no walks after that. Sixty-six strikes, 29 balls. He throws a curve, fastball, slider, changeup, and with every one of those pitches he was more than 50 percent strikes. He threw 16 first-pitch strikes. If you throw first-pitch strikes, you make the batter swing the bat, and he got 10 outs in three pitches or less. "I think it's especially impressive going up against Johan Santana," Macha added. "[Burns] had given up two runs with only one out in the first inning, and then settled down and pitched a great game for us." Reliever Mark DiFelice took over with two outs in the seventh and finished the inning, then combined with Todd Coffey to finish the game. The Brewers will go for a three-game sweep behind their own ace, Yovani Gallardo, on Thursday. It meant something, Burns said, to beat a two-time Cy Young Award winner. "He's a great pitcher," Burns said of Santana. "No matter how good you are, one of those outings can happen. But he's also going against a good lineup. We've got one of the best lineups in baseball."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.