Crew belts four homers to take finale vs. Jays

Crew belts four homers to take finale vs. Jays

Crew belts four homers to take finale vs. Jays
MILWAUKEE -- If you played in this week's Blue Jays-Brewers series and did not hit a home run, well, maybe you weren't trying.

At least it seemed that way when the baseballs finally stopped flying over the fences on Wednesday, after an 8-3 Brewers win at Miller Park gave Milwaukee the power-packed series, two games to one.

The teams combined for five home runs in the finale and 16 in the set, the most in a three-game series involving the Brewers since they combined with the Astros for 17 homers at Minute Maid Park in June 2008.

"It was a lot of hitting going on," Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo said in an understatement.

Said manager Ron Roenicke: "That was impressive, on both sides."

Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion homered in all three games, but the Brewers answered, and answered and answered. Four fence-clearing flies -- by Corey Hart, Martin Maldonado, Carlos Gomez and new National League home run leader Ryan Braun -- accounted for all but one of Milwaukee's runs.

Encarnacion started Wednesday's home run derby with a second-inning solo shot off Gallardo before the Brewers went deep three times against spot starter Joel Carreno in the bottom half. First baseman Hart tied the game with an opposite-field solo homer, catcher Maldonado put the Brewers ahead with a two-run shot to left, and Gomez added insurance with a fly ball that hooked around the foul pole for two more runs.

Just like that, the Blue Jays' 1-0 lead had become a 5-1 deficit.

Yes, it was hot at Miller Park this week, where the baseball tends to fly in the summer months. But that did not entirely explain this slugfest.

"I'm sure if you look at all of the pitches that were hit out of the ballpark, there were probably not very many where you would say, 'Hey, that's a good pitch,'" Roenicke said.

It was 6-3 in the seventh when Braun gave the Brewers some breathing room with another two-run homer, his 20th this season. He now leads the National League in home runs.

Braun's blast helped preserve Gallardo's fourth win in five decisions. The righty allowed three earned runs on seven hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts, the biggest of which came when Toronto catcher Jeff Mathis was called out on strikes with runners at second and third base in the sixth inning.

Gallardo was in more trouble in the seventh, when three successive Blue Jays batters reached with two outs, including Colby Rasmus on an RBI double that made it 6-2. Reliever Tim Dillard took over and walked a batter, then hit a batter to force home a run before striking out Kelly Johnson to strand three runners and preserve a 6-3 lead.

"When you're down runs, you've got to look to create some offense in some form or fashion," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We had some opportunities, but they swung the bat exceptionally well."

Braun's homer in the next half-inning made it 8-3. With home run No. 20, Braun passed the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran for the top spot on the NL leaderboard.

"The ball was carrying today about as well as I can ever remember," Braun said. "[But] there were a lot of homers, and I don't think too many of them were cheap ones."

Braun had a scare in the third inning, when he tried to score from third base on a pitch that got past Mathis. It caromed back toward the Blue Jays catcher, who tagged Braun for the inning-ending out. Braun cut his right hand in two places on Mathis' cleat, but stayed in the game.

The Brewers would have liked at least another out from Gallardo in the seventh inning, considering their thin bullpen. Roenicke entered the day with three fully-functional relief arms, and two of them pitched: Dillard and right-hander Mike Fiers, who is in a period of seven days between starts. The other available arm belonged to seldom-used left-hander Juan Perez.

Others were either off-limits or something close. Right-hander Jose Veras remained a question mark with an upper leg injury. Closer John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe and Manny Parra needed a break from their recent heavy workloads.

"I had no idea," Gallardo said. "But as a starting pitcher, obviously, you want to stay out there as long as you can. The goal is to go nine innings every start, but you know that's not going to happen 33, 34 starts, whatever it may be."

For the Brewers, it rarely happens at all. They were one of seven Major League teams that entered Wednesday without a complete game. Last season, only San Diego (no complete games) had fewer than the Brewers' one -- from Gallardo in early April.

But that was beside the point on Wednesday, when the Brewers won their third straight series at home, and fourth in their last five series overall. They are still five games under .500 at 32-37. Next up, another Interleague series at the American League Central-leading White Sox, followed by three divisional games against the National League Central-leading Reds.

"They're getting to the point where they're all important now," Roenicke said. "We need to creep up on the rest of the field. I think we're playing solid baseball now. I really like our starting pitching; I think if we continue to play this way, those series become huge. We can't let too many games get away."

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.