Braun homers twice in Brewers' win

Braun homers twice in Brewers' win

WASHINGTON -- The Brewers did not excel in any phase of the game during their three straight losses in Pittsburgh, but got it together just in time for the start of a three-game series in the nation's capital that will close out the first half.

Milwaukee hit, pitched and fielded its way to a 6-2 win over the Nationals on Friday night at RFK Stadium, snapping a three-game losing streak and adding a game to its lead in the National League Central.

"We fell right back on track today," said manager Ned Yost, whose mood was soured before the game when the team placed center fielder Bill Hall on the disabled list with an ankle injury.

"We just couldn't get going in Pittsburgh, offensively or pitching-wise," Yost said. "But it felt natural today. It felt good."

They got plenty of offense. Ryan Braun enjoyed his first career multi-homer game, Kevin Mench hit a three-run blast and Corey Hart tripled to extend his hitting streak to 22 games, tied for third-longest in club history. Ten of the team's 11 hits came with two outs -- Braun's second homer was the exception.

"I was surprised the second one got out," Braun said. "It's a big park."

They got solid pitching. Dave Bush improved to 7-7 with seven solid innings and won for the fourth time in his last five decisions, a stretch that includes four starts and one relief appearance.

And they got some flashy defense. First baseman Prince Fielder made a highlight-worthy scoop for the first out of the seventh inning, and second baseman Rickie Weeks helped squelch a Nationals rally in the eighth with a terrific, off-balance throw to rob Brian Schneider of an infield hit that would have loaded the bases and brought the potential tying run to the plate against lefty reliever Brian Shouse, who then made a nice play of his own on a line drive that glanced off his glove.

"I thought it would take a great play to get us out of that bind, and Rickie made a great play," Yost said. "It just kind of came out of nowhere."

Said Weeks: "It was just a regular out, to tell you the truth."

The Brewers built their cushion with help from Braun, who hit a two-out, solo home run in the first inning and another solo shot in the fifth. Both homers came off Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsik (2-6), who took the loss after allowing six runs and eight hits in five innings.

After Braun's homer in the top of the first inning put Milwaukee on the board, Fielder singled, Johnny Estrada hit a ground-rule double and Kevin Mench blasted a three-run home run for a 4-0 lead. The Brewers scored at least four runs in the first inning for the third time in their last eight games.

Braun has 10 home runs in 38 games since a promotion from Triple-A Nashville. He is hitting .400 (28-for-70) over his last 17 games and is hitting .537 (22-for-41) against left-handers, with six of his 10 home runs against southpaws.

"You didn't catch anything really special tonight," Yost, grinning, told a Washington reporter. "That's what he's kind of been doing. Especially against left-handed pitching, he's really been tearing it up. He's been pretty amazing since he's been here."

The benefactor was Bush, who has a 3.15 ERA (16 earned runs in 45 2/3 innings) in seven starts and one relief appearance since May 30.

"I've felt much better," Bush said. "There's always work to do to stay consistent, but on a whole I have felt better the last month or so. It's been nothing major. It's been mostly just small adjustments."

Four of the Nationals' seven hits off Bush came from former Brewers second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who put his team on the board with a seventh-inning solo homer. But Bush, who threw a season-high 115 pitches, used a sharp curveball to avoid damage, stranding Nationals runners in scoring position in five of his seven innings.

He faced his toughest jam in the sixth, when Dmitri Young led off with a double and Ryan Church singled to shortstop. Bush retired Austin Kearns on a fly out, then struck out Felipe Lopez and Schneider to end the inning.

"That's when it helps to have a six-run lead," Bush said. "You have the luxury of just getting outs instead of worrying about a bunt or worrying about trying to move the runners over. You try to throw strikes and get guys out."

Hart legged out a two-out triple in the second inning and scored on a J.J. Hardy single. Hart's 22-game hitting streak is tied with Cecil Cooper (1980) for the third-longest in franchise history. Only Davey May (24 games in 1973) and Paul Molitor (39 games in 1987) have had longer streaks.

Was it a bounce back from the tough series in Pittsburgh?

"I hope so," Braun said. "We felt like we needed to come out and win. We needed to play well, and we were able to do that tonight."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.