Brewers rely on late-inning heroics

Brewers rely on late-inning heroics

MILWAUKEE -- Jeff Suppan pitched his best game of the year, and the Brewers, with another late-inning rally and another one-run win, made sure he had something to show for it.

Suppan worked eight shutout innings before the Brewers took advantage of their only run-scoring opportunity all night, getting a two-out RBI triple from second baseman Rickie Weeks for a 1-0 win over the Braves at Miller Park on Wednesday.

Salomon Torres worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his fourth save of the season and shortstop J.J. Hardy, who scored the go-ahead run in the eighth, made a diving catch in the ninth to seal Milwaukee's third straight win. All three of those wins have been decided by a single run.

"I feel good that Soup worked so hard and got a win and I think the rest of the guys do, too," said Brewers manager Ned Yost, who notched his 400th career win as skipper. "But the most important thing is we won the game. I think everybody feels that."

Suppan (3-4) was just as profound.

"Every win is important," Suppan said. "You can quote me on that."

He did most of his talking on the mound, as did Braves starter and tough-luck loser Jo-Jo Reyes (2-3). Suppan threw a season-high 113 pitches, worked a season-high eight innings, set a season high with seven strikeouts and didn't allow a run for the first time in 11 starts this season.

Reyes, a left-hander, set a career high with nine strikeouts, surrendered just two hits and retired 14 Brewers in a row from the third inning through the end of the seventh.

But Reyes walked Hardy leading off the bottom of the eighth inning and was replaced by reliever Blaine Boyer. Jason Kendall bunted Hardy to second base -- the Brewers' first runner in scoring position all night -- and Boyer struck out pinch-hitter Joe Dillon for out No. 2.

Up stepped Weeks, whose batting average has hovered around .200 for much of this season. He looked at strike one, then yanked another Boyer fastball into the left-field corner for his third triple this season.

Yost has remained a vocal proponent of Weeks, arguing that his walk-to-strikeout ratio is better than ever, that his on-base percentage is creeping up and that a large percentage of his outs have been screamers right at defenders.

"You always find a hole if you keep swinging," Yost said.

Weeks was happy to reward Suppan for a fine outing.

"I've been saying this since last year, that guy just throws everything at you, he hits his spots and he just wins games for you," Weeks said. "He keeps you in games from the first inning to the last inning, and that's why he's so good."

The Brewers' defense helped, most notably in the second inning after third baseman Bill Hall bobbled a routine Omar Infante grounder for an error that left runners at first and second with one out. Reyes tried to sacrifice the runners up a base, but Brewers catcher Jason Kendall scooped up the bunt, threw to Hall at third to retire the lead runner, and Hall fired back across the diamond to complete an inning-ending double play.

The Brewers turned another twin-killing in the sixth inning and got a gem from first baseman Prince Fielder and Torres in the ninth. Speedy outfielder Gregor Blanco hit a grounder to Fielder's backhand, and Torres took the feed and stepped on first base just in time for the second out.

Hardy then finished things with a diving play behind second base.

"I got a little fired up," Torres said of his own close play. "Then, when they hit the rocket to J.J. ... I saw the video and it was a perfect pitch, a perfect swing and a perfect catch."

It was the Brewers' first 1-0 win since Sept. 20, 2006, against the Cardinals. The Brewers are 11-6 in one-run games this season.

"It's a W," Torres said. "If we have to go one-run games the rest of the season, we'll take it."

Both pitchers may have been aided by a generous strike zone from plate umpire Mark Wegner, who consistently called the low strike. Hardy and Hall were among the Brewers to take umbrage to a Wegner strike call, and Mark Texeira and Brian McCann both voiced their frustration in the eighth.

Lip-readers could clearly interpret Texeira's reaction to a called strike three, and McCann was similarly upset when Suppan got strike one in a similar location. McCann stepped out of the batter's box to argue and stayed there while Wegner motioned Suppan to pitch.

"I haven't had that happen in a game before," Suppan said. "The way their argument was going, I was ready for that. ... I just threw it up there. I was hoping he wasn't going to jump in the box and swing. He didn't, and it was a strike."

Said McCann: "Kendall sits about as low as any catcher and he reached down to get that first strike. I just didn't like it."

Suppan piped a batting practice fastball for strike two, and though McCann fouled off the next pitch, he then struck out on a check swing to end the inning.

According to Yost, the strike zone had little to do with Wednesday's pitcher's duel.

"It wasn't the strike zone as much as it was fantastic pitching by both pitchers," Yost said. "The strike zone wasn't the issue tonight. It was Jo-Jo Reyes and Jeff Suppan, both pitching lights-out."

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