Brewers power way to eighth straight victory

Brewers power way to eighth straight victory

SAN DIEGO -- Things are going so smoothly for the Brewers these days that even a freak injury that knocked out their starting pitcher turned out to be a mere blip on the radar Monday night.

X-rays on Kyle Lohse's dislocated pinky were negative -- just more good fortune for the Brewers, who beat the Padres, 7-1, to run their winning streak to eight games, the club's longest since August 2008.

Milwaukee is the first club ever to follow a 2-8 start with eight straight victories, and Monday's was never really in doubt as Ryan Braun and Yuniesky Betancourt opened the game with homers in a five-run top of the first inning.

Braun started the scoring when he smashed the first pitch he saw -- a thigh-high sinker from Padres starter Jason Marquis -- over the left-center field wall. Braun is now hitting .328 with five homers and 13 RBIs in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

"Sometimes you just feel comfortable in a batter's box, you see the ball well, you just feel like there's a batter's eye that's comfortable for you," said Braun, who later added an RBI single. "Every ballpark is a little bit different and for whatever reason, I've just felt comfortable here."

It's been a bizarre stretch for Braun, who is just 7 for his last 36 with 17 strikeouts, even though five of those hits have been long balls -- seemingly all of them coming at important times.

In fact, Braun's timely hitting is emblematic of the Brewers as a whole during their winning streak. That continued on Monday as Milwaukee was out-hit, 8-5, yet won the game handily.

"We really haven't been swinging the bats, collectively, really well," said Braun, whose homer tied him with Gorman Thomas for fourth on the Brewers' all-time list. "We've just gotten, it seems like, big hits in big situations."

Milwaukee's formula has been consistent pitching and timely hitting and the arms held up their end of the bargain on Monday night, even with Lohse's early exit.

"It's always good [to get an early lead] -- That takes a little pressure off," Lohse said. "It's always good to get some early runs and it seems like you can really go after guys."

He sustained the injury when he made contact with Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko following a bunt. The dislocated finger is a recurring injury for Lohse, and he said he would have remained in the game, but the finger wouldn't go back into place.

Lohse lasted long enough to earn his first win as a Brewer after he signed a three-year, $33 million deal in the offseason. As he has been all season, the right-hander was efficient and effective from the start, allowing one run on four hits in five innings.

"I don't think he's going to wow anybody with his stuff, he just knows how to pitch," Gyorko said of Lohse. "He's going to hit the corners, he's going to throw three or four pitches for strikes. It makes it a tough at-bat when a guy is not making any mistakes."

Lohse has limited those mistakes all season, with three quality starts before the injury Monday prevented his chance at a fourth on Monday. He's making it harder and harder to fathom why so many teams passed on him during the offseason.

"All his outings have been the same," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He commands the ball, mixes up speeds well, it's good that we -- hopefully -- aren't going to lose him now."

The Brewers staff didn't miss a beat when Lohse left, as the relievers stayed hot with four scoreless frames. The 'pen has allowed just four runs over the last 10 games (31 innings).

"That's why we're winning all these ballgames," Roenicke said. "Today was a little bit different, but we've been in close games, and [won] because the bullpen has come in and thrown up a bunch of zeroes."

Four batters after Braun's homer, Betancourt did him one better, with a three-run homer -- also on the first pitch Marquis threw him. The Crew tacked on a couple more in the fifth and that was plenty for Lohse and the red-hot 'pen.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, the Brewers have gone from six games below .500 to a game out of first place in the NL Central.

"Baseball's a crazy game," Braun said. "It just happens. We just continued to stay positive and stay optimistic. We knew we were better than we were with the 2-8 start."

A.J. Cassavell is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.