SAN DIEGO -- Shut-down starting pitching is apparently getting contagious for the surging Milwaukee Brewers, and no one is happier than slugger Prince Fielder. "That means we have more time to hit," Fielder said. Jeff Suppan continued the team's string of strong starts, mostly breezing through eight innings of a 5-2 win over the Padres on Tuesday at PETCO Park which pushed the Brewers to a season-high 18 games over .500.
Former Padre Mike Cameron hit a solo home run and made a series of slick plays in center field, and Fielder blasted a go-ahead, three-run home run for the Brewers, who improved to 12-2 on the road since the All-Star break. They moved within three games of the National League Central-leading Cubs, who were rained out on Tuesday night in Atlanta. "Starters' success will let you play a long time," said Cameron, who spent the previous two seasons playing for the pitching-rich Padres in pitcher-friendly PETCO Park. "It gives you the opportunity to play later on in the fall." No Brewers have more postseason experience than Suppan, who was outstanding for the third straight start since his dismal July 27 outing against the Astros. On Tuesday, he held the Padres to two runs on four hits over eight innings, and over his three starts since he allowed eight runs in six innings against Houston, Suppan is 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA (five earned runs in 22 innings). Over the team's last 11 games, Brewers starters are 8-2 with a 2.01 ERA and have recorded 10 quality starts of at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs, including seven such starts in a row. Milwaukee leads the National League in innings pitched by its starters. "It helps when you have two aces in the front of your staff," Suppan said, referring to CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, who are scheduled to pitch the remaining two games in the series here. "That's a big boost, so you just keep going. ... "I'm a person that I'm not looking back on a season. I'm focused on what I have to do now, regardless if I've pitched well or poorly in the past. That's where my focus is. You can always look back and see trends. You look back when it's all over." The Brewers hope Suppan continues his trend as a second-half pitcher. In 2007, his first year with Milwaukee, Suppan posted a 5.00 ERA before the All-Star break but lowered it to 4.12 afterward. Over the previous three years, Suppan had a 4.98 ERA before the All-Star break and a 3.09 ERA after it. Suppan was quick to argue that every start is different. Manager Ned Yost was more inclined to see a trend. "I think there's something to that, for sure," Yost said. "We saw him pitch in big games and pitching in World Series games and division playoff games to get [the Cardinals] to the World Series." Suppan surrendered only two hits in his first five innings of work, and both came in the second, when Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff hit an 0-and-2 pitch for a solo home run and a 1-0 San Diego lead. Nick Hundley singled two batters later but was stranded. That was San Diego's only hit until Jody Gerut led off the sixth inning with another solo shot. By then, the Brewers had built a lead. Cameron answered Kouzmanoff with a solo shot in the third off right-hander Cha Seung Baek (4-6), and Fielder ripped a go-ahead homer down the right-field line with two runners on base and no outs in the fourth. When asked about Fielder's go-ahead blow, Cameron was quick to credit Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy, who went 0-for-4, including a pair of double-play grounders, one with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. Hardy drew a walk leading off the fourth inning from Baek, who then surrendered a single to Gabe Kapler before Fielder gave the Brewers a lead with authority. "It was shot out of a cannon," Yost said. "Gerut's was, too. Those are fun home runs to watch, because they're just smoked." It was Fielder's fifth home run in his last seven road games and his 27th homer this season. "I'm just trying to hit it on the barrel as far as I can," Fielder said. Salomon Torres pitched the ninth for Milwaukee and earned his 23rd save. Baek took the loss after working six-plus innings. He surrendered five runs, all of them earned after the official scorer reversed a seventh-inning Kouzmanoff error into an RBI infield hit for Kapler. Baek allowed seven hits and four walks with three strikeouts in his first career appearance against Milwaukee. He's been an enigma for the Padres, who play home games in an extremely pitcher-friendly ballpark. Baek is 3-0 with a 2.90 ERA in five road starts since a trade from Seattle to San Diego, but he fell to 0-6 in home starts over the same span. Suppan had no such trouble on Tuesday, when he threw an economical 98 pitches in his eight innings of work. Cameron's familiarity with PETCO Park's spacious center field certainly helped; he made at least three catches near the wall on balls that would have sailed far out of Miller Park but died in the thick ocean air. "There were some plays where the ballpark helped me," Suppan said. "[Suppan] played the park just right on a couple of balls," Yost said. "Used Cammy's great defensive ability in center. He just kept making pitches. Eight innings is always a great start."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.