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07/22/08 11:55 PM ET
Hall's homer lift Brewers over Cards
Sixth win in a row gives Milwaukee NL Wild Card lead
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- In the cool of the clubhouse before batting practice on Tuesday, Bill Hall said the reason for his recent resurgence, especially against the right-handed pitchers who so dogged him early in the season, was simple. "Confidence," Hall said. A few hours later he had even more reason to swagger. Hall hit a go-ahead home run in the final inning for the second straight night, a solo shot in the ninth that gave the Brewers a 4-3 win over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Jeff Suppan worked seven strong innings in his return from the disabled list and the Brewers rallied back from a 3-0 deficit to take a 2-0 lead in the four-game series between National League Central rivals. They have won six in a row and five straight to start the second half to take outright control of first place in the NL Wild Card from the Cardinals. "It feels great," Hall said. "I've got a lot of confidence now, and I think that's helping out a lot." Hall hit a Ryan Franklin slider for a go-ahead solo homer in the 10th inning of Monday's series opener, and on Tuesday, he connected on a Kyle McClellan (2-5) fastball and drove it to the left-center-field seats with two outs. Brewers closer Salomon Torres, who suffered a blown save on Monday but then won the game with help from Hall, this time converted his 18th save. Brian Shouse (4-1) notched the win with a scoreless inning in relief of Suppan. Hall's back-to-back big nights reminded him of April 27-28, 2004, when Hall hit a game-winning homer against the Reds one night and then dropped a game-winning squeeze bunt the next. "This was probably the closest it gets to those two," Hall said. Hall was hitless in his three at-bats against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse, who took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and a one-hit shutout into the seventh before the Brewers started their comeback. Shortstop J.J. Hardy doubled and scored Milwaukee's first run in the seventh inning, then hit a two-out RBI single in the eighth that tied the game at 3 and set the stage for Hall's dramatic game-winner. "Two nights in a row," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "Everybody wants those at-bats. That's the mark of a good club. We don't have anybody in our lineup that doesn't want those at-bats. "We fell back, 3-0, and Lohse was pitching great, had a no-hitter into the fifth, but there wasn't any doubt that we were going to continue to fight and work as hard as we can to get back in this game." Suppan's effort helped. After missing his last start with irritation in his right elbow, he came off the disabled list for his first start since July 6 and promptly surrendered two Cardinals runs on four hits in the first inning. Ryan Ludwick blasted a 450-foot home run, and Rick Ankiel made it 2-0 with an RBI infield single. Suppan was tough after that, allowing only four more hits and one more run over his final six innings. "I was just trying to stay mentally sharp and not lose an edge," Suppan said of his two-week layoff. "I stayed focused on what I had to do. There's a lot of time to think when you're on the DL." Suppan had been pitching through the irritation in his elbow, which usually affected him most in non-baseball activities. Subconsciously, he says now, he may have been "shortening up" his delivery. "He definitely had the extra 'finish' tonight," catcher Jason Kendall said. "That was lacking his previous three starts." Hall finished the comeback. His .177 batting average against right-handed pitchers entering Tuesday's game was nothing to boast about, but Hall's recent success has prompted Yost to play him in each of the first two games of this series against right-handed starters. Before this week, Yost for the most part had struck to the platoon he installed in late May. Hall had been starting against left-handed pitchers, and Russell Branyan against right-handers. Both before and after the game on Tuesday, Yost would not say whether Hall was playing himself back into an everyday role. "I'm not answering Billy questions. We do it every day," Yost said. "We go day-to-day. ... What gives us the best opportunity to win? That's how I look at it. I've got 25 guys in that room that I can use to help us win a baseball game, and which pieces are going to be best used to win today? It goes no farther than that." Soon after the Brewers promoted Branyan, Hall's agent, Terry Bross, said that if the team did not intend to play his client, it should explore trading Hall. Hall does not regret taking that stance. But he is glad those few uncomfortable weeks are in the past. "It wasn't fun there for a while," he said. "I started getting booed, which made me lose a little bit of my confidence and my swagger. But I got it back and everything is going well. My teammates stayed behind me and I made sure I never gave up on myself. They knew I was going to come back."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.