MILWAUKEE -- Kendrys Morales hit a booming two-run home run to give the Blue Jays a four-run lead in the fifth, and Toronto's bullpen held on to beat the Brewers, 4-3, in the opener of a two-game Interleague series on Tuesday at Miller Park.
Making his first start as a third baseman in four years, Jose Bautista extended Blue Jays' fifth with a two-out single, before Morales got all of a Jimmy Nelson sinker for a home run to straightaway center. At a projected 447 feet, according to Statcast™, Morales' home run was the second longest by a Blue Jays hitter this season, and it was also their second-hardest-hit home run, leaving the bat at 110.5 mph to give Toronto a 4-0 lead.
"It turned into a pretty tight ballgame and our bullpen stepped up, that's for sure," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We got some pretty good work in that one."
The Brewers scored three in the fifth off starter Joe Biagini, but four Blue Jays relievers ensured the win with 4 2/3 hitless and scoreless innings that saw them strike out eight. At the plate, Biagini also registered his first career RBI.
Nelson's four-run, five-inning outing marked the first time in four starts this month (one was rain-shortened) in which he surrendered more than two earned runs.
"He made a bad pitch to the wrong guy, a guy that could really hurt him," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
"Totally different game if I could take one pitch back," Nelson said. "But you can't do that in this game."
The Brewers brought the winning run to the plate in the ninth against Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna but could not complete the comeback. Milwaukee has now lost back-to-back games for the first time in more than two weeks, since May 5-6 at Pittsburgh.
Jonathan Villar capped the Brewers' three-run fifth with a two-run single and stole three bases for Milwaukee.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Climbing the ladder: The Brewers were positioned to take the lead after Villar's two-run single cut the deficit to 4-3 in the fifth, but Blue Jays reliever Danny Barnes engineered an escape. With Biagini out of the game, the right-handed Barnes came in with one out in the inning. Villar and Eric Thames pulled off a double steal to put the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position for Milwaukee's No. 3-4 hitters. Barnes struck out Ryan Braun with a 91.6 mph fastball above the letters and whiffed Travis Shaw on a similarly placed pitch at 92.2 mph for the third of Shaw's four strikeouts. Barnes also pitched a scoreless sixth inning and was rewarded with his first Major League win.
"Feels good, especially after the last outing. It felt good to bounce back," said Barnes, who allowed two runs on four hits in his last outing against the Orioles on Saturday. "Guys [in the bullpen] are just kind of cutting their teeth a little bit. Some people would say, 'They're going to get worn out now,' but I honestly think it's going to help us later on as guys build confidence."
Another chance: Braun, playing his second game after a 10-day stint on the disabled list for right arm and left leg injuries, had another chance to at least tie the game when the Brewers manufactured a two-out threat in the seventh. Villar walked and stole second base -- his third swipe of the game -- before Thames was hit by a Ryan Tepera pitch to bring Braun to the plate for the second time in three innings with the tying runner on base. Braun fanned at a 1-0 cutter way off the plate outside, then hit an inning-ending flyout to right field on a sinker on the inside edge of home plate.
"He's not swinging it like he's capable right now," Counsell said of Braun, "but he'll get there."
ON THE BOARD IN THE BIGS Anthony Alford, the Blue Jays' No. 3 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, logged his first Major League hit when he lined a double off the center-field wall as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Alford's hit off Brewers reliever Rob Scahill left his bat at 107 mph with a launch angle of 20 degrees, qualifying it as one of three barreled balls in the game. Morales accounted for the other two.
"It's been something I've been waiting for a while now. It was definitely a great feeling, and on top of that, we got the win," Alford said. "Right off the bat, I thought it was a chance it was going to be a home run, but I probably wouldn't have gotten it back if it was a home run. I just figured with the luck I have sometimes, it might've gotten caught. I'm just glad it hit off the wall and I was able to get my first big league hit."
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays:Marcus Stroman will have the chance to hit his second career home run when he starts for the Blue Jays at 1:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Miller Park. Stroman has allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his nine starts, including a complete-game loss against the Brewers in Toronto on April 12.
Brewers:Matt Garza will try to stay hot when the Brewers conclude their brief series with the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon. In five starts back from a stint on the disabled list for a groin injury, Garza has a 2.43 ERA, and the Brewers are 4-1 when he takes the mound. Garza's first pitch is at 12:10 p.m. CT.