Braun homers to lead Brewers to 4-2 win over Cubs
MILWAUKEE Ryan Braun feels he's at full strength at just the right time for the Milwaukee Brewers.
One day after losing All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks to a severe ankle sprain, Braun had three hits, including a home run, to lead the Brewers to a series sweep with a 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
Braun had a nagging calf injury in the days before the All-Star game and missed playing in the game in Phoenix, but since he came back he's heated up with five homers in 12 games.
"I feel good," he said. "I'm swinging better. I feel like my approaches have been good and I've been swinging at strikes. When I do that, the results are usually pretty good."
Braun said the entire team needs to step up with Weeks out for between two and six weeks. The Brewers put Weeks on the 15-day disabled list before the game.
"Whenever you lose someone like Rickie, you can't replace him with one player," he said. "Collectively, we all have to play better. It is not something we wanted to happen, but it did and we have to move on and hope he gets back quickly."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Braun has looked fully recovered in recent games.
"He's really swinging the bat well now," he said.
The Brewers' pitching was also strong in the three-game series, holding the Cubs to just four runs.
"Our starting pitching has been really good the last three or four weeks and they are the reason we are where we are right now," Braun said.
Shaun Marcum (10-3) pitched six innings to win his third straight for the Brewers, giving up two runs on seven hits. LaTroy Hawkins and Franciso Rodriguez each pitched a scoreless inning and John Axford closed out the game to record his 30th save in 32 chances. Axford, who has now converted a team-record 27 straight save opportunities, saved all three wins against the Cubs.
Marcum struggled in the first inning, giving up one run, in part because of his throwing error on a pickoff attempt. He settled down and only gave up one more run.
"I fell behind early in the counts, but the guys battled back and gave me the lead," he said. "Then I was able to get in a groove and pitched pretty well."
Randy Wells (2-4) took the loss for the Cubs, giving up all four runs on eight hits.
Cubs manager Mike Quade said Braun was the main reason for Wells' troubles.
"Wells wasn't too bad, (but) he struggled to figure out Braun," Quade said. "That was his nemesis all day."
The last time the Brewers swept the Cubs in Milwaukee was May 3-5, 2005.
Troy Campana, who started in right field for the Cubs after Kosuke Fukudome was traded to Cleveland Thursday morning, led off the game by beating out an infield grounder and went to second on a throwing error by Marcum. He then stole third base and scored on Aramis Ramirez's sacrifice fly to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead.
The Brewers came back to grab a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Casey McGehee's sacrifice fly and Yuniesky Betancourt's RBI double.
Braun's 21st home run of the season in the third inning gave the Brewers a 3-1 lead.
Milwaukee extended its lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning. After a single by Nyjer Morgan, Braun crushed a pitch from Wells off the center field wall to score Morgan.
Alfonso Soriano's sixth inning RBI double cut the lead to 4-2.
Notes: To replace Weeks on the roster, the Brewers recalled INF Eric Farris from Triple-A Nashville. Farris made his major league debut in a pinch-hit appearance in the seventh inning and grounded out. ... The Cubs recalled OF Tyler Colvin from Triple-A Iowa to replace Fukudome on the roster. ... Brewers IF Craig Counsell went 0 for 3 to extend his hitless streak to 41 at-bats, setting a new Brewers record for consecutive at-bats without a hit by a position player. The record had been 38, which was set by Greg Vaughn in 1990.