Milwaukee bullpen silences rally cry of Braves
Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2011 9:23 pm
By: By COLIN FLY, AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jason Heyward gave the Atlanta Braves a chance to rally.
Milwaukee’s relievers made sure they didn’t.
Heyward hit a three-run homer to pull Atlanta to within one in the sixth, but the Braves didn’t get a hit the rest of the way off the Brewers’ bullpen in a 5-4 loss on Wednesday night.
After Zach Braddock and Kameron Loe pitched the seventh and eighth, John Axford led off the ninth by walking Heyward, but Axford struck out Alex Gonzalez, got Matt Young to ground out and retired Eric Hinske on a fly ball.
“We came back and made it a one-run ball game. We couldn’t get that big knock,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We got the tying run on base in the ninth and a chance to hit it out of the ballpark.”
Atlanta has lost two straight since winning the opener of this four-game series, but the offense keeps showing signs of improvement.
After failing to get a runner in scoring position in the first two games of the series, Martin Prado led off the game with a double and came home on Chipper Jones’ double with one out.
But Atlanta failed to tack on any more runs when Brian McCann singled and Jones was thrown out easily at the plate by center fielder Carlos Gomez.
“Chipper had a good jump but he made a hell of a throw. He really did,” Gonzalez said. “You have to have people make plays and he did at that particular time.”
Atlanta finished 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Brewers starter Marco Estrada (1-0) allowed consecutive singles to start the sixth.
Heyward homered to right field, cutting Milwaukee’s lead to 5-4, but Milwaukee’s bullpen held on for the first time this season.
“We gave ourselves a chance. It’s all we can do,” Heyward said. “We swung the bats well. They had more guys on base and a couple of opportunities to score.
“They took advantage of it and got some momentum from that.”
Prince Fielder went 3-for-4, drove in his first three runs this season and scored two more after being hitless in 11 at-bats.
He started early, driving in two runs with a bases-loaded single in the first against Mike Minor.
Fielder scored in the fourth frame on Yuniesky Betancourt’s two-bagger, hit an RBI single off Minor (0-1) in the fifth and scored later in that inning on a close play at the plate to give Milwaukee a 5-1 cushion.
Atlanta staked Minor to a 1-0 lead, but Fielder’s two-run single after Minor walked the bases loaded wiped away the advantage and any momentum.
“I feel like I let the team down,” Minor said. “You get a lead, you’re supposed to come out the very next inning and shove it, put a zero up on the board. Obviously, I didn’t do that. Came out and walked the house pretty much.”
Estrada retired 11 of 12 at one point and finished the sixth inning after Heyward’s homer. Milwaukee’s bullpen had allowed nine runs in 13 innings this season, but the group looked much stronger this night with three hitless innings.
Still, Gonzalez was pleased with the overall effort.
“It was nice to see the bats starting to swing on our end,” the manager said. “We only got nine hits, but I thought we hit the ball a lot harder than what we showed. A short turnaround and right back at it tomorrow.”
NOTES: Wednesday night was the 10th anniversary of Miller Park’s opening. ... Braves RHP Jair Jurrjens (oblique) threw four innings in a simulated game. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Jurrjens threw well and his next step will be a Triple-A start with Gwinnett before returning to be the fifth starter on April 16 against the Mets. ... The Brewers will send three players to rehab assignments this week. C Jonathan Lucroy (broken right pinkie) will begin on Thursday at Double-A Huntsville, RHP LaTroy Hawkins (shoulder) will head to Single-A Brevard County and LHP Manny Parra (back) will pitch for Single-A Wisconsin on Saturday.