Brewers thunder their way to sweep

Brewers thunder their way to sweep

Brewers thunder their way to sweep
MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun didn't care that they finished the job with a 13-4 rout against the rebuilding Astros, who committed more errors on the first day of August (four) than they won games in the entire month of July (three).

For Braun and the Brewers, any series sweep is sweet.

"They're still a Major League team, and a win is a win and certainly a sweep is a sweep," Braun said after driving in three runs and scoring three more in Wednesday's finale of a three-game set. "It's not easy to sweep any team at this level, regardless of who they have or who they don't have."

Braun & Co. ran away from the Astros for the second straight day, scoring the go-ahead run on an error in the fourth inning and scoring six runs in the fifth to back another strong start for right-hander Mike Fiers.

Braun, Cesar Izturis, Jonathan Lucroy and Rickie Weeks all homered -- Braun after fouling off seven consecutive full-count offerings in a 14-pitch at-bat -- for only the Brewers' second winning sweep all season. The first was a four-gamer at Dodger Stadium in late May, an uplifting series that the Brewers hoped would propel them toward the top of the National League Central.

That did not happen, of course, which is why Zack Greinke is wearing an Angels uniform and the Brewers are already thinking about 2013.

Fiers provided another glimpse of the future on Wednesday by allowing two runs on eight hits in six quality innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. His ERA "skyrocketed" to 1.88 -- best in the Majors for any pitcher with more than 60 innings of work.

And that's with a pair of four-run outings on his record. Since the second of those games, a loss to the Padres on June 9, Fiers is 4-2 with a 1.02 ERA in eight starts.

"I feel like I have a lot of confidence when I go out there," Fiers said.

He was confident enough to do something few players do anymore. When reliever Jose Veras took over from Fiers with two on and nobody out in the seventh inning and the crowd of 32,217 gave Fiers a standing ovation, he waved his hand to acknowledge them.

"When the crowd is going wild like that after a good start -- these fans here understand the game of baseball and they understand a good outing -- it's good to feel that," Fiers said. "It's really nice to play here and get the support of the fans like that."

It's also good to get run support. The Brewers scored only three total runs in Fiers' first three July starts, all team losses, but he beat the Nationals, 6-0, on Friday and exited Wednesday leading, 10-2.

The Brewers scored an unearned run on two Astros errors in the first inning, took the lead on another error in the fourth and then blew the game open against Houston starter Jordan Lyles in the fifth, when Milwaukee logged six runs on six hits. Braun delivered a two-run single and Corey Hart a run-scoring double before Weeks and Izturis homered.

Weeks' two-run home run was his 12th home run this season. With 12 hits in his last 27 at-bats and a .279 average (41-for-147) over his last 40 games, Weeks has boosted his average from .162 on June 15 to .212 on Wednesday.

Astros manager Brad Mills was upset about a close call in the inning -- Nyjer Morgan was ruled safe at third base on a double steal before Braun's single.

"We get that call, which we didn't at third base when the guy's out stealing third, that's one out and Braun's got two strikes on him," Mills said. "The whole inning took a different complexion when that happened. From there, the inning kind of went downhill, obviously."

Braun's 14-pitch at-bat came against Astros reliever Fernando Rodriguez in the sixth inning, with two outs and nobody on base. Braun fouled off the seven straight 3-2 pitches -- all fastballs, all registering 95-96 mph -- before hitting another 96-mph heater into the right-field seats.

"When you see good at-bats like that, that's different," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Nyjer had one a few days ago. [Martin] Maldonado had one earlier, Lucroy had one earlier. You remember those."

Did Braun have an idea where 14 pitches ranked among his longest Major League at-bats?

"I can't remember a longer at-bat," Braun said. "You probably don't really remember them unless it's a positive end result. So I think that one will be more memorable because the end result was good. I'm sure I've had some long ones that ended in strikeouts."

Lucroy hit his sixth home run of the season in the seventh inning. It was Lucroy's first homer since returning from the disabled list at the start of the Brewers' homestand.

Brett Wallace homered twice for Houston, including a two-run shot in the eighth inning that came after Brewers reliever Mike McClendon hit Scott Moore with a pitch. The teams exchanged plunkings throughout the three-game series, and they will get a chance for more when they meet again in Houston beginning Aug. 10.

The Astros will try to cool off a Brewers offense that outscored them in this series, 31-12.

"There's no reason to give up," Braun said. "Why are you going to give up, ever? Unless you're mathematically eliminated, you're going to continue to believe you have a chance. There's a lot of crazy things that have happened throughout the course of the history of this game."

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.