The Braves said they were going to use Sunday’s win in St. Louis to build a little momentum, and they kept their word.
They worked an unusually wild Wily Peralta for a three-run lead in the first three innings, chased him after five innings, and then finished off the Brewers’ bullpen with a five-run eighth to take the first game of this series 9-3 against the first-place team from the NL Central.
“I thought yesterday’s game might be of those turn-you-over (games),” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who reiterated that in Monday’s scouting meeting before the Braves played the Brewers. “Sometimes you think a win is a win, but yesterday the way we won that game, it might be the biggest win we’ve had all year. We’ll see. Hopefully it’ll carry us over for a long time.”
The Braves built a 3-0 lead with some help from Freddie Freeman’s second home run in as many days, and they broke it open with home runs from Ryan Doumit– the 100th of his career – and Justin Upton in the eighth.
By the time the eighth-inning onslaught was over, the Braves had batted around, so that the pinch-hitting Doumit batted twice in the inning. And the second time, he was facing the Brewers utility player Lyle Overbay, a former Brave, who took the mound for his first career appearance as a pitcher.
Overbay got Doumit to pop-out to shortstop, which was more than Weu-Chung Wang could say, after allowing five runs including two homers on 40 pitches.
“Kid’s got nasty stuff,” said Doumit, with a twinkle in his eye, talking about Overbay, his 37-year-old former Pirates teammate and fellow native of Washington state. “The kid, he’s got a bright future ahead of him. I’m going to keep my eye on him.”
The Braves piled on a season-high 15 hits, including three each from Andrelton Simmons and leadoff hitter Jason Heyward, who also stole two bases and scored two runs. The Braves scored six or more runs for two straight games for the first time since they won four in a row with some steady offense against the Nationals and Phillies April 11-14.
“It’s nice to finally show everybody what we’re capable of,” Doumit said. “We have too much firepower in this lineup to be quiet the last week or so. I think we’re seeing signs of guys breaking out. Today was a pretty telling sign, guys using the whole field. I think there’s more of that to come.”
While the Braves could have scored a lot more than three runs off Peralta, wasting multiple scoring opportunities early, they worked him for 101 pitches to chase him after five innings. And after their eighth inning outburst, they didn’t have to sweat going 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranding 10 runners through the first seven innings.
The Brewers had pulled within a run, down 4-3, after Ryan Braun stroked a one-out, two-strike opposite field home run off David Carpenter to the dismay of the booing 20,468 at Turner Field. But he just gave another Ryan some ideas.
Doumit worked a full count from Wang to lead off the eighth and then sent his first home run as a Brave – and fourth as a pinch-hitter and 100th of his career – into the left field seats.
“It’s a pretty cool milestone,” said Doumit, a 10-year veteran with the Pirates, Twins and Braves. “Ninety-nine has been on my mind for a little bit so now it’s cool to get there and tomorrow it’s back to business.”
After Wang hit Heyward with a pitch, Upton homered to right for his 11th of the season.
The Braves got their usual solid work from the mound, with Mike Minor allowing only two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. He gave up two runs on one swing when Kris Davis turned on a 3-1 fastball for a two-run homer in the fifth inning. That cut the Braves’ lead to 3-2, but it was all the Brewers could muster off Minor.
Minor did not allow a hit until Jonathan Lucroy singled with two outs in the fourth, and that broke up a streak of 11 in a row retired by Minor after he walked Carlos Gomez to lead off the game.
Freeman homered to the opposite field for the second straight game. This one barely cleared the left field wall and took left fielder Davis’ glove with it. But a fan was kind enough to throw his glove back to him, as Freeman had the Braves up 3-0 on his ninth home run of the year.
The Braves needed a wild finish to shake their offensive funk Sunday in a ninth-inning rally in St. Louis and got a wild start Monday night to keep it going.
Peralta, who walked no more than two batters in any of his first eight starts this season, walked three of the first six Braves batters he faced. Heyward scored the Braves first run on a passed ball and an errant throw to third base by Martin Maldonado. B.J. Upton drew a leadoff walk in the second inning and scored on the first of two RBI hits for Ramiro Pena.
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