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Braun brings Brewers back to top Cubs

Braun the hero in Brewers' victory

CHICAGO -- Had Cubs closer Kerry Wood closed the deal in the ninth, the Brewers, who four innings earlier were watching their best young pitcher lying on his back and clutching his knee, probably would have left Wrigley Field muttering, "It could have been worse."

Instead, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun was able to sit there and say, "It doesn't get any better."

A day after a 14-run Cubs thumping and four innings after what looked like a devastating injury to right-hander Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee rallied for three runs in the ninth and got away with a 4-3 win at Wrigley Field on Thursday.

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Braun finished 3-for-5 with a home run and drove in three of Milwaukee's four runs, including two big ones in the ninth, when he lined a Wood (2-1) pitch over right fielder Kosuke Fukudome's head for a go-ahead double. Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks was thrown out at home plate on that play, one of three baserunners out at home in one of Milwaukee's more hard-fought games this season.

"That's got to be right up there at the top," Braun said. "The way that [Cubs starter Carlos] Zambrano was throwing the ball, the loss yesterday -- I think it speaks volumes to our character, our resiliency as a team. It's a huge win."

And a huge series win. By handing Wood his third blown save, the Brewers took two of three games from the Cubs, just like they did in early April.

The Brewers trailed, 3-1, entering the ninth, but Wood sparked the go-ahead rally when he hit Craig Counsell with a pitch. Gabe Kapler doubled to left -- outfielder Alfonso Soriano may have pulled up a step or two short of the ivy-covered brick wall, though he said the wind pushed the baseball out of his reach -- to leave runners at second and third for Jason Kendall, whose RBI single up the middle could have scored both runs had Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot not knocked it down.

Wood then loaded the bases by walking Weeks and struck out Mike Cameron before Braun delivered his double. The Brewers had their first lead of the afternoon.

"That was so much fun. It doesn't get any better than that," Braun said. "Especially [considering] the rivalry atmosphere and having the opportunity to quiet the fans down a little bit."

Brian Shouse (2-0) picked off Fukudome to end the eighth inning and was rewarded with the win. Eric Gagne pitched the bottom of the ninth for his ninth save.

The late rally helped Gallardo avoid a loss, but he had already skirted disaster. With the teams tied at 1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson tried to bunt for a hit, and Gallardo and first baseman Prince Fielder converged on the bag at the same time. Fielder tagged out the runner, but as Gallardo tried to get out of the way, he was tripped by a diving Johnson and appeared to badly twist or hyperextend his right knee.

Gallardo, who had surgery on his other knee in Spring Training and started the season on the disabled list, hit the ground in obvious pain. Teammates feared the worst.

"The way he went down, I know I thought he was done," Braun said.

Said Gagne: "I would have broken my leg. He's young, so he can do that."

Gallardo remained in the game after a visit from manager Ned Yost and head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger. He escaped that inning but then was visited again in the sixth, when Yost believed he saw Gallardo "favoring" his right leg.

"I think it scared him more than anything else," Yost said.

"That's what it was more than anything," Gallardo said. "After surgery in Spring Training, that's the last thing I wanted to have happen. Once I hit the ground, I was scared. ... The first thing I thought was, 'Not again.'"

He escaped the fifth inning, got new life from Braun's tying solo home run in the top of the sixth, then went back out for the bottom of the inning and surrendered the lead on four hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly. Mark DeRosa's sac fly gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead, and Geovany Soto made it 3-1 with an RBI double that could have done more damage had Braun and Counsell not combined to throw out Fukudome at the plate.

That play was payback for the top of the sixth, when Fukudome threw out Fielder at the plate trying to score the go-ahead run for Milwaukee.

After the game, Gallardo watched the replay of his tumble. He did not rewind and watch it again.

"Once is enough," he said.

Gallardo was charged with three runs on nine hits in six innings of work. Zambrano hit a solo home run -- the 13th of his career, tying a Cubs record for a pitcher -- for a 1-0 Chicago lead and limited the Brewers to a run on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

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

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