MILWAUKEE -- The Braves tallied four runs during the first two innings and received a decent start from Matt Wisler during Monday night's 5-3 win over the Brewers at Miller Park. But while it had to be nice for the club to see the offense productive yet again without Freddie Freeman, it had to be even more encouraging to see how the bullpen prevented this from being one of those frustrating losses that seemed to occur frequently just a month ago.
While Kelly Johnson recorded his second three-RBI performance in three days and A.J. Pierzynski produced his second four-hit game of the season, the most significant contributions were provided by David Aardsma, Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli, who combined to keep the Brewers scoreless after Wisler exited with two on and two outs in the sixth inning.
"Wisler did really good and the bullpen was awesome," said Pierzynski, who was behind the plate Monday.
The latter part of Pierzynski's assessment has not been used to often to describe the bullpen this season. But since faltering during May's final week and the early part of June, Atlanta's oft-reconstructed relief corps has shown some improvement, posting a 2.96 ERA over the past 23 games.
While Grilli and Johnson have been relatively consistent, middle relief has been a constant concern. Thus, when Brewers pinch-hitter Hernan Perez produced a one-out double in the seventh in a two-run game, there was reason to wonder if Avilan could escape the jam, especially while facing two consecutive left-handed hitters.
Left-handed hitters batted .333 and produced a .360 on-base percentage against Avilan through June 16. But after he retired Gerardo Parra and Scooter Gennett to leave Perez stranded on Monday night, the southpaw provided indication that he might be getting back to where he was in 2013, when he served as a reliable setup man.
Lefties have just two hits in 13 at-bats against Avilan dating back to June 18.
"You kind of feel comfortable to just give him the whole inning," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "That inning started with two right-handers. You feel like you give him an opportunity and he can get both sides out. That's a plus for us."
When Johnson got through the eighth unscathed to run his scoreless streak to 15 consecutive appearances, he set the stage for Grilli, whose perfect ninth inning netted him his 23rd save in 25 opportunities.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.