ST. LOUIS -- Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun took the lead in the National League batting title race on Sunday, when a three-hit game boosted his average past Jose Reyes' .333, to .335. Braun's hitting coach doesn't worry one bit that Braun's bid will become a distraction. Quite the opposite. "Certain people are motivated by stuff like that, and I think he's one of them," Dale Sveum said. "I don't think it hurts. Sometimes it can hurt guys, but those kinds of achievements motivate Brauny. Just like last year."
Sveum referred to late last July, when Braun's batting average fell below .275 for the first time on a non-April date in more than three years. He responded by batting .424 in August and .308 in September to finish with a .304 average. Or, Sveum said, look at 2009, when Braun needed a tremendous surge over the final two and a half weeks to finish as the NL leader in hits with 203. He batted .398 over his final 19 games, and topped 200 hits on the next-to-last day of the season. "He can say, 'OK, I need to get going,'" Sveum said. "He's one of those guys where, I don't think it bothers him, it motivates him more." Another strong finish could help Braun gain some separation in a fascinating bid for the NL MVP Award. Reyes has dropped out of the discussion because of his lingering hamstring injury, leaving Braun, teammate Prince Fielder and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp as the consensus top three. Kemp is having a sensational season for a losing team, and, on pure numbers, may be having the best year. "Kemp's numbers are ridiculous, but so are Braun's and Fielder's," Sveum said. "You know how it happens with teams that win; they seem to have the MVP on their team. That's the way the voting goes." Sveum hopes it goes that way again.