Brewers' late rally stops Braves in their tracks

Brewers' late rally stops Braves in their tracks

Brewers' late rally stops Braves in their tracks
MILWAUKEE -- Before and after his team's 4-1 win over the Braves on Monday, manager Ron Roenicke perfectly summed up the situation.

"A lot of good things happened without getting a lot of hits," Roenecke said when the night was done.

The good things included another strong start for rookie Wily Peralta, three more innings of quality relief from a resurgent bullpen, a slew of sensational defensive plays -- including two that cut down a runner at third base -- and, yes, some help from an Atlanta club that rode a hot streak of its own to Miller Park.

But the Braves made just enough mistakes, and the Brewers did just enough to capitalize. The Brewers scored all four of their runs in the seventh inning and emerged with their 16th win in 21 games, a surge that has moved them to the fringes of the National League Wild Card race and saved a season that even a few weeks ago seemed completely lost.

This brings us to Roenicke's second summation. It came earlier in the day, when the Brewers were still pondering the "what ifs" of a Sunday loss in St. Louis that denied them a three-game sweep and another game in the Wild Card standings.

"I don't know how this thing is going to end up," Roenicke said, "but I've really enjoyed the last month, watching the way we've played, and to get us back into where people are talking about us."

The people are watching, too, evidenced by a crowd of 34,395 for a Monday night game in September.

They saw the Brewers shut out through the first six innings by Braves starter Mike Minor, then rally for four runs against three relievers in the seventh to beat a streaking Braves squad that had won five in a row and seven of eight, and entered the night atop the NL Wild Card standings with a 5 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals, who hold the second Wild Card slot.

After winning on Monday, the Brewers were 5 1/2 games behind the Cardinals pending the outcome of St. Louis' game in San Diego later Monday night. It remains a crowded field; the Pirates and Dodgers still stand in the way, and the Phillies had pulled into a tie with the Brewers.

Still, the Brewers have rediscovered some of the swagger they took to last year's NL Championship Series.

"I feel we're a lot more confident," said right fielder Norichika Aoki, who was not part of last year's team but has been a huge cog in this year's comeback.

Aoki's game-tying two-run homer gave the Brewers hope in Sunday's loss in St. Louis. His go-ahead two-run double against the Braves on Monday essentially won the game.

"We just have a lot of momentum right now," Aoki said. "Before, if we were down late in a game, we might be kind of down on ourselves. Now we feel like we're in every game."

Aoki also contributed one of the Brewers' key defensive plays when he threw out Martin Prado at third base in the third inning trying to go from first to third on a single. In the eighth, Prado was out at third again on a similar play, this time cut down by center fielder Carlos Gomez.

"They were playing very aggressive behind me. I'm happy with the defense we're playing," Peralta said.

The 23-year-old right-hander dueled with Minor through four scoreless innings before the Braves manufactured a run in the fifth without the benefit of an RBI.

Dan Uggla singled to lead off the inning and broke for second on a hit-and-run with Brian McCann batting in a 2-and-2 count. McCann hit what would have been an easy double-play grounder to shortstop Jeff Bianchi, only Bianchi had vacated his position to cover second base. Uggla went to third on the hit and scored when Andrelton Simmons grounded into a double play.

The Braves' one-run lead stood until the seventh, when the Brewers managed only two hits but sent 10 men to the plate, saw 44 pitches and scored four runs. Reliever Jonny Venters began the inning for Atlanta and surrendered a single and a walk before he botched a throw to third base on Bianchi's bunt, allowing the tying run to score.

Another reliever, Chad Durbin, fared no better. He walked pinch-hitter Jonathan Lucroy to load the bases and set the stage for Aoki's big double, and Gomez followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.

After two more walks -- Ryan Braun's was intentional -- again loaded the bases, the Braves turned to their third relief arm of the inning, Cristhian Martinez, who retired Taylor Green to end the long rally.

"It's my job to come in and keep it where it is, and I didn't do that," Venters said. "This loss is on my back. I didn't do my job, and I let my team down."

Brewers reliever Jose Veras earned the win after stranding the bases full of Braves in the top of the seventh inning. Jim Henderson pitched a scoreless eighth, and John Axford earned his 28th save in the ninth.

Peralta did not figure in the decision after allowing one run on seven hits in six innings, with one walk and four strikeouts.

"When everything is going wrong and bad, you know it's because something good is going to come," Veras said. "That's the way it is in baseball, and that's the way that life is. Sometimes you're going to have tough times in your life, but you battle and work and try to find the day it's going to be good. That's what we have been doing as a group.

"We don't think that we got it done. We think we've got a long way to go yet."

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.