Maldonado, Braun power comeback victory

Maldonado, Braun power comeback victory

Maldonado, Braun power comeback victory
MILWAUKEE -- The box score showed that the Brewers beat the Padres on Sunday, 6-5, with home runs from left fielder Ryan Braun and catcher Martin Maldonado and a quality start from Yovani Gallardo, to secure a winning series and a winning homestand.

In this case, the box score did not tell the full story. You needed to see Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's weary face to understand.

"That was another game that was hard to enjoy in the end," Roenicke said.

The end finally came after a top of the ninth inning in which the Padres scored three runs, worked two bases-loaded walks, forced the Brewers' closer from the game and operated for almost all of the inning's 29 minutes with the bases loaded.

With John Axford removed after 37 stressful pitches, Jose Veras threw 17 more, the last of them a full-count curveball that froze Padres catcher John Baker and finally gave the Brewers their badly-needed win.

"That was tough," said Maldonado, the catcher. "You've got a four-run lead, and then they come back like that, it's tough."

"Good thing we came out winning it," Roenicke said, "but we shouldn't let a game get away like that."

The game appeared under control after the Brewers finally broke free of some early-inning doldrums. They committed twice as many errors -- two, including one by Gallardo that led to an unearned run -- as they collected hits.

But recent sparkplug Norichika Aoki beat out an infield single to spark a four-run sixth inning against wild Padres right-hander Anthony Bass. It included Braun's RBI single and Maldonado's second two-out, three-run, go-ahead home run in the series.

In fact, the 25-year-old Maldonado delivered go-ahead RBIs in all three games against the Padres.

"I think everybody wants to do that," Maldonado said. "Nobody wants to fail in that situation."

Braun kept the scoring going in the seventh inning with a two-run home run, his team-best 15th this season. He also saved a run in the first, taking away a would-be homer by Chase Headley with a terrific leaping catch at the left-field fence.

"I don't know if it would have been a homer or not. It was right there," Headley said. "I was just hoping that, at this ballpark, it would sneak out of there."

"It looked like [a home run]," Gallardo said. "I didn't get a look at the replay. But after seeing that play, it makes you battle, even though you don't have your good stuff.

That catch came two batters after Gallardo surrendered a leadoff home run to Will Venable, but the Brewers' right-hander settled in to pitch seven innings for his third win in four starts. Gallardo allowed five hits and two runs, one earned, with five strikeouts and two walks.

Francisco Rodriguez worked a scoreless eighth inning, handing a seemingly safe, 6-2, lead to Axford, who struck out the first batter he faced in the ninth.

It would be the only out Axford recorded..

Axford found trouble with some well-placed Padres hits, a broken-bat single by Chris Denorfia that split first baseman Corey Hart and second baseman Rickie Weeks, followed by a Venable double that chopped over Hart's head.

Axford then created his own trouble, with no help at all from plate umpire Jim Joyce's tight strike zone. Axford walked Logan Forsythe on seven straight fastballs to load the bases for Headley, who capped another seven-pitch battle with an RBI single. Carlos Quentin followed with another seven-pitch plate appearance that ended with a run-scoring walk, cutting the Brewers' lead to 6-4 and ending Axford's afternoon.

In 11 save opportunities, Axford has a 0.87 ERA and has allowed 13 baserunners in 10 2/3 innings. In 13 non-save situations, he has a 7.30 ERA and 24 baserunners allowed in 12 1/3 innings.

"I guess, statistic-wise, it seems that way this year," Axford said. "But the first three guys I faced were strikeout, broken bat and a chopper double that apparently hit a brick in front of home plate or something. I don't know. After that, the walks is really what hurt."

Veras did not exactly cruise to his first save since last June 11 for the Pirates.

He threw six straight curveballs to Yonder Alonso and got a called strike three, then threw three straight balls to pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman to force in another run and cut the Brewers' lead to 6-5.

The count went full again to Baker. Ball three was a close one, on which third base umpire Mike DiMuro ruled Baker checked his swing.

"I think he went," Maldonado said, shrugging.

So the game came down to one final pitch, a curveball for a called strike.

The Padres still have not won a road series this season.

"It was a great run there in the ninth," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I really thought we were going to do it. Had some really, really good at-bats throughout the ninth. It came down to a couple backdoor breaking balls at the end to get Alonso and to get Baker."

The Brewers secured a winning homestand at 5-4. They lost two of three to the Pirates, only Pittsburgh's second winning series at Miller Park since the start of 2007, before winning two of three from a pair of last-place teams -- the Cubs and Padres.

"Definitely not successful for us," Axford said. "We wanted to win more than that. Obviously, coming away with more wins than losses is fantastic, and since that Dodgers series [a four-game sweep to start the month] we are in the win column more than the loss column, which is great.

"But, you know, we played some teams here that we thought maybe we could pick up a couple more games than we [did]. At least we ended up on top."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.