Defense key as Brewers edge Braves

Several impressive plays help Milwaukee turn 2 runs into win

Defense key as Brewers edge Braves

ATLANTA -- A two-run offensive night is usually not a good thing for the Brewers.

Heading into Tuesday night's 2-1 win vs. the Braves at Turner Field, they were 1-14 in games in which they scored two runs or fewer, with two of those games coming in the previous series against the Mets.

But on Tuesday night, two runs were good enough. The defense made sure of that.

Milwaukee, which has committed 29 errors in 45 games and has a .982 fielding percentage, dazzled defensively, with web gems everywhere.

"The defense was great tonight," said center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, whose running catch of a Tyler Flowers blast with no outs and a runner on first in the sixth inning was called the play of the game by manager Craig Counsell. "[Aaron Hill] made a couple of great plays, Ryan [Braun] made a great play, [Ramon] Flores at the end of the game. On mine, it was a ball hit over my head, trying to get back as quick as possible, you can't really take your eye off that. It was hit pretty hard, and then try to time my jump and was able to come up with it."

Another key play came in the second inning. With the bases loaded and no one out, Erick Aybar ripped a 3-1 pitch -- a pitch starter Jimmy Nelson felt may have been ball four -- the opposite way. Hill caught the head-high rocket, then doubled up Nick Markakis.

Hill's unassisted double play

Nelson, now facing a much more manageable situation -- no score, two out, runners at first and second vs. down 2-0, with runners at second and third, or worse -- easily retired pitcher Julio Teheran to end the inning.

"That's huge," he said. "You look at the percentages of bases loaded with no outs, how many runs score. Honestly, I just got lucky right there. Once you get out of the inning as a starting pitcher, you can try to find a better rhythm and start attacking the zone better."

Hill made another tremendous diving stop up the middle as part of a shift to rob Atlanta second baseman Kelly Johnson in the fourth. Left fielder Braun made a superb diving catch in left-center to rob Gordon Beckham leading off the eighth to protect a 2-1 lead. Then, in the ninth, still up 2-1, shortstop Jonathan Villar pulled in another scorcher by Aybar to get a force play and keep the tying run off second.

Hill's diving grab

The Brewers also made an alert play to end the seventh and keep the game tied at 1. With two out, speedster Mallex Smith stole second base. But second baseman Scooter Gennett kept the tag on Smith. Counsell called for a review, which took 40 seconds and found that Smith's foot came off the bag. Inning over.

Lucroy throws out Smith

"I saw him come off the base," Counsell said. "That's one of those where in the replay era you stress, 'Keep the tag on! Keep the tag on!' Your instinct is to tag him and get it out of there. But Scooter did a nice job of keeping the tag on."

"That's something I had to get used to a little bit last year when they started the replay," Gennett said. "A lot of those fast guys are so fast that when they come up, it's hard for them to stop themselves. That was the case tonight, where his foot came up a little bit off the bag. It kind of looks stupid sometimes when we're just sitting there with the glove on him, but it's part of the game now."

On Tuesday night, defense was, too. The biggest part.

Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.