Brewers win for Axford after blown save
Braun's single in ninth inning secures series victory for Crew
MILWAUKEE -- Extra work paid off in a big way for Ryan Braun.
Before the Brewers' 4-3 walk-off win over the Nationals on Saturday, Braun was out early, working with hitting coach Dale Sveum. Early batting practice has been common for the Brewers this season, but Braun has not typically been a part of it.
Braun took what they worked on and delivered a pair of RBIs, including a solo home run in the first and the game-winning single in the ninth.
"Just something different every day," Braun said of his early hitting session. "The goal is to get back to being comfortable and trying something different every day."
After working the count full against Nationals starter J.D. Martin in his first at-bat, Braun blasted an 87-mph fastball out to the gap in right-center field.
Four at-bats later, Braun ripped a 1-0 fastball from Drew Storen (2-2) off the wall in left, scoring Rickie Weeks from second and sending the 41,987 fans in attendance home happy.
"I knew the game was going to be over," Braun said. "I thought it had a chance to get out. But either way, I figured the left fielder wasn't going to have a play on the ball. Definitely a good feeling."
Braun's heroics more than made up for a rough outing by closer John Axford.
Despite entering the game a perfect 14-for-14 in save opportunities, Axford was bound to blow a save at some point. That time came Saturday as he surrendered the Brewers' lead in the ninth, giving up three straight singles and a sacrifice fly to open the inning.
Axford bounced back quickly, though, getting the next two batters out and giving the Brewers the chance for the win. Thanks to singles by Weeks and Braun sandwiched around a walk drawn by Joe Inglett, they did just that, giving Axford his sixth career win, all of which have come in walk-off fashion.
"I just tried to keep the team in it right there, especially with our offense that we have," Axford said. "They're definitely going to come through at some point, and they have six times so far for me this year, so it's been good."
Before the thrilling ninth, however, veteran center fielder Jim Edmonds stole the show for the second straight night.
First, the veteran center fielder -- who has been dealing with a sore right Achilles tendon -- blasted a home run into the Brewers bullpen in left-center field to lead off the fourth inning, putting Milwaukee on top 2-0.
In the fifth inning, Edmonds made an incredible highlight reel catch in right-center field, reminiscent of his glory days with the Angels and Cardinals, for which he received huge applause from the home crowd.
"I figure this is probably going to be the last nine weeks I get to play," Edmonds said. "I'm definitely not going to spend that on the DL if I don't have to. If I can still go out there and play, I'm going to play."
There was some intrigue in the scoring on the play. Edmonds made the catch with one out and runners on first and third. Mike Morse, who was on first, was caught far off the base after the catch and was doubled off to end the inning with no runs recorded.
An inning later, however, the umpires ruled that Josh Willingham scored from third base before Morse was doubled off. Rule 4:09 in the 2010 edition of Official Baseball Rules states that the lead runner can score before the runner on first is thrown out.
Early on, it was all Brewers, as the Crew led 2-0 in the fourth with left-hander Manny Parra having faced the minimum and allowing just one hit through four innings.
With that in mind, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman was happy with the way his team continued to fight, and eventually tied the game in the ninth.
"It had a feel like we were getting blown out early," Riggleman said. "We were not doing much with Parra, who was very sharp. J.D. is hurting, and Edmonds hits another home run. It just had the feel that they were blowing us out, but we hung in there."
Weeks added one to his league-leading total of 19 times being hit by pitch, but this time it was far scarier than usual. As the ball got away from reliever Collin Balester in the fifth, Weeks was drilled in the left ear flap with a 94-mph fastball.
Unfazed, Weeks remained in the game.
"As soon as I got there, he said, 'I'm all right,'" Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "I said, 'You better just sit here and wait until the trainers get here.
"Thank God he had the ear flap on and had that protective helmet."
For Braun, the grittiness Weeks displayed was hardly surprising.
"Rickie's the toughest guy I've ever played with in my life," Braun said. "Nothing seems to faze him. It's unbelievable. You never want to see that happen; it's obviously disturbing and dangerous.
"But Rickie's as tough as they come, so if anybody can deal with it and stay in the game, it's him."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.