LOS ANGELES -- They almost lost the manager to oxygen deprivation, but the Brewers got a rare series-opening win against the best team in baseball. Ryan Braun had four hits, including a three-run home run that provided a seemingly-comfortable cushion, and Manny Parra came within three outs of his first career complete game, but the Brewers' 6-5 win over the Dodgers on Monday night hinged on a showdown between two icons. All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman on the mound for Milwaukee. Manny Ramirez at the plate for Los Angeles with the bases juiced and the winning run at second base.
"I'm glad it was a short at-bat," Brewers manager Ken Macha said, "because I couldn't hold my breath any longer." He exhaled when Ramirez hit Hoffman's third pitch to right fielder Bill Hall -- a moment in itself, because Hall was making his first career start in right field -- for a game-ending flyout. It gave the Brewers their first win to begin a series since the first game following the All-Star break, and, coupled with Sunday's win in San Diego, it meant the team has won consecutive road games for the first time since a sweep of the Indians in Cleveland from June 15-17. Since the Cardinals were idle, the Brewers picked up a half-game in the National League Central standings. Milwaukee sits four games behind co-leaders St. Louis and Chicago. "We're still in this thing. I think sometimes people lose sight of that," said Braun after his fourth game this season with at least four hits. "But we're definitely still in it. We still have two months to go, and we've put together streaks of playing great baseball for prolonged periods of time." Parra (6-8) earned his third straight win since returning from a demotion to Triple-A, and Hoffman notched his 24th save in 26 chances. It was his 67th save against the Dodgers -- more than any other team -- and his 38th at Dodger Stadium -- his most at any venue he hasn't called home. Career save No. 578 didn't come easily. Parra, who had already pitched past his previous career-best 7 2/3-inning outing against the Giants last July, took the mound at the 96-pitch mark in the ninth inning seeking the Brewers' second complete game this season. Yovani Gallardo, who starts Tuesday against the Dodgers, went the distance in Houston on April 24. "I was really hoping he would get through that ninth," Macha said. "We've only had one complete game, and his pitch count was great. He only had one walk. He got a bunch of ground balls, a couple of double plays. He was outstanding. "My feeling was that if he got through the ninth, it would be a tremendous boost for him." Parra wanted the complete game just as badly. "It's a personal goal, aside from the team," Parra said. "So I'm happy we won the game, but at the same time I was chomping at the bit. I went out there with the intention of finishing the game, so it's disappointing right now. In the end, we won the game and it's all good." Parra surrendered a single and a double to begin the ninth, prompting a call to the bullpen for Hoffman, who promptly allowed a ground-rule double to James Loney that sliced away from Hall in the right-field corner. The hit capped Parra's pitching line: Eight-plus innings, eight hits, four runs, one walk and four strikeouts. The win, though, was still in the balance. Loney scored on Orlando Hudson's base hit, and suddenly the Dodgers were within a run. Hudson moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third when pinch-hitter Russell Martin hit a drive to the warning track in center field. Next up was speedster Rafael Furcal, who surprised the Brewers by bunting toward third base. Hoffman picked up the baseball and fired to first, but the call from umpire Lance Barksdale was safe. Macha briefly protested, but conceded later that the umpire "made the right call." Another close call went against the Brewers when plate umpire Marvin Hudson ruled that Hoffman had hit Andre Ethier with a pitch, loading the bases for Ramirez. Hoffman thought the baseball struck Ethier's bat. "I thought we were about to win that game," said Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp. "But [Ramirez] can't come through every time. He's not Superman." Hoffman retired Ramirez after a trio of sliders. Ramirez hasn't driven in a run since his pinch-hit grand slam against the Reds on July 22. "That's certainly not the situation you want to face Manny," Hoffman said. "He's pretty prolific with the bases loaded, and there's not overpowering stuff on the mound. We were lucky to get him to fly out." Braun wasn't in the field for the ninth inning after tweaking his elbow on a throw to the infield in the seventh. That play came a half-inning after Braun's 22nd homer, off Dodgers reliever Jeff Weaver, but the Brewers already were working with a lead courtesy of Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw (8-6). He walked four consecutive batters in the top of the fourth inning, including a pair with the bases loaded. That bit of unintentional generosity -- Kershaw got a called strike one to Mike Cameron with one out and one on early in the frame, then threw 16 of his next 19 pitches out of the strike zone -- gave the Brewers a 2-1 lead. Parra's own outing threatened to turn in the third inning, when his throwing error set up Furcal's RBI single. But Parra bounced back by coaxing a double-play grounder from Ethier and then retiring Ramirez on a groundout. "Efficient," Parra said when asked to assess his outing. "My stuff wasn't great, but I was able to keep the ball down, so I was happy with it." It was especially fulfilling against the Dodgers, who still own the best record in the Majors at 65-41. "They seem to be in every game until the last out," Parra said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.