Braves overwhelm Brewers with 17 hits

MILWAUKEE — One key thing the Braves are doing in the second half is taking advantage of second chances.

They jumped on a couple of them Friday night to roll up a 9-4 win against the Brewers and take their hot streak on the road. After a 6-2 homestand coming out of the All-Star break, the Braves kicked off a six-game two-city trip by racking up a season-high 17 hits on the Brewers and gaining a game on the Phillies.

The Braves are now down 5-1/2 games in the NL East.

Javier Vazquez needed a second chance after squandering a four-run lead in the fifth and got it from Chipper Jones, whose solo home run gave the Braves a 5-4 lead in the sixth, one they wouldn’t lose. For Jones, that swing was a chance to make up for leaving the bases loaded in the third inning when he could have put the kibosh on Brewers pitcher Manny Parra.

From there, Vazquez persevered through the last of his hard-fought seven-inning, 110-pitch night, and Nate McLouth let him rest a little easier by hitting a two-run homer in the eighth.

“That was a game that for the last three years we’ve lost,” said Jones, who went 3-for-4 with two walks and two runs. “... This is a different team. This is a team that is very good at the end of the bullpen and a team that [Nos.] 1 through 8 is swinging the bat very well right now.”

The Braves got home runs from each of the top three hitters in the lineup, McLouth, Jones and Martin Prado, to help erase the damage from Ryan Braun’s two-run home run to tie the score 4-4.

Braun’s home run broke up a streak of 77-2/3 innings since Braves pitchers last gave up a home run in Colorado the game before the All-Star break.

But Vazquez came right back and struck out Prince Fielder, something he did four times in the game. Fielder, who homered off Vazquez on June 6, struck out four times for only the second time in his career. He stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first, third and seventh innings.

“Just a great hitter ,and I treated him like a great hitter and tried to make my pitches,” Vazquez said. “He got me last time with a home run. I got him this time.”

Those accounted for four of Vazquez’s nine strikeouts. He allowed four runs in seven innings. After going 1-3 with a 1.98 ERA in June, Vazquez is 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA. At 8-7, he moved back above .500 for the first time since May 20.

“If you give up three, four runs in this ballpark, as a starter you’ve done a heck of a job,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “In the clutch, he clutched it in. He got one of the best hitters in baseball four times. That’s Javy. He can do that. He can reach back. He’s got all the pitches to do something like that.”

The home runs by Jones and McLouth against the Brewers’ bullpen gave the Braves vindication after racking up 10 hits through five innings on Parra but only four runs. Jones and Brian McCann both came away empty with the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

Jones got his second chance in the sixth when he turned around to hit left-handed against Carlos Villaneuva and launched the game-winner.

“Still seething over that bases loaded, one-out strikeout,” Jones said. “I had a feeling that might come back to haunt us at some point. Luckily we kept the foot on the accelerator throughout all nine innings.”

Every hitter in the lineup, including Vazquez, came through with hits except McCann, who went 0-for-6. Prado drove in four runs. Garret Anderson was 3-for-5.

Prado’s three-run homer gave the Braves a 4-0 lead and a chance to gloss over Thursday’s loss to the Giants.

“Our thought is win every series we play,” Prado said. “We talk about every at-bat, every situation counts.”