MILWAUKEE -- They waited until late May and early June, but the Brewers are finally playing like the team they expected to be in April. Seth McClung continued the team's string of strong starts and Ryan Braun continued to power the offense, hitting a go-ahead, two-run home run in a 7-1 win over the Diamondbacks at Miller Park on Tuesday. Braun put the Brewers on the board in the sixth inning, and Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy also homered, as Milwaukee won its fifth straight game and improved to 7-1 on a homestand that ends Wednesday afternoon. By winning the first two games of their current series against the D-backs, the Brewers ensured a fifth consecutive series win or split.
"This is what we've been waiting to do all year," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "Get on a run, get on a roll. You just keep rolling with it." McClung (3-2) outpitched Arizona starter Randy Johnson (4-2), allowing a run on six hits in six solid innings while delivering Milwaukee's eighth quality start (six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs) in the team's last nine games. Brewers starters are 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA during that stretch. McClung, a right-handed pitcher who hits left-handed, also singled twice off Johnson for two of the Brewers' first three hits and the first two hits of his career. He saved his baseball bat from each of those at-bats, and was asked if they would be sent to the Hall of Fame. "My hallway is where I'll be sending them," McClung joked. More impressive was McClung's work on the mound in his third start since moving to the starting rotation from the bullpen. Five days after he walked six batters in a loss to the Braves, McClung did not issue a walk, striking out four. Mark Reynolds' RBI double off McClung in the fourth inning stood as the game's only run through 5 1/2 innings, and Johnson was cruising. The left-hander took sole possession of second place on the all-time Major League strikeouts list when he whiffed Mike Cameron in the first inning, one of eight strikeouts for Johnson as he took a three-hit shutout and a 1-0 lead into the sixth. Cameron led off the sixth with a walk before Braun hit his 16th home run of the season, his third of the homestand, for a 2-1 Brewers lead. "It's pretty special for us to beat [Johnson] tonight," said Braun, who connected on a slider. "He was on top of his game, too. He was dominant the majority of the game. He just made a few mistakes, and fortunately, I was able to take advantage of one of them. Seth pitched great, so it was great to give him an opportunity to win tonight. He deserved it." Had the Brewers remained in their 1-0 hole, McClung likely would have pitched the seventh. Instead, Yost opted to pull his starter with a chance to win and turned to rookie reliever Tim Dillard, who worked a scoreless seventh inning. Brian Shouse blanked the D-backs in the eighth and ninth for his second save. Brewers relievers have not allowed a run in five innings against Arizona, and they have a 1.09 ERA over the last 12 games. "This is more like what we thought we would start out doing," Shouse said. "We went through some tough times, but right now things are going pretty good. We knew that we were going to turn it around eventually." Johnson worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing six hits and a walk. His eight strikeouts give him 4,680 in his career, breaking a tie with Roger Clemens and leaving him second only to Nolan Ryan's 5,714. As Johnson walked off the field with one out in the seventh and the Brewers leading, 3-1, the 29,478 in attendance gave him a loud standing ovation. "One thing I won't forget in my career is the crowd," Johnson said. "Walking off the mound to get a standing ovation like that, as a visiting player, that meant a lot. That's pretty classy, and I won't forget that." Brewers third baseman Bill Hall, whose agent said Monday that Hall wanted to be traded, did not get so warm a reception. He received a smattering of boos after strikeouts in the second and fourth innings against Johnson, and was even booed in the eighth when he singled off right-handed reliever Max Scherzer. Hall has reached base via a hit in nine of his last 10 games, and will continue to platoon at third base with Russell Branyan. "That's not a problem," Yost said of the fan reaction to Hall. "That just shows you the passion that our fans have. Our fans are very loyal, very passionate Milwaukee Brewers fans, and I think that's not going to be a problem for Billy. It wasn't that bad." The Brewers wrap up their nine-game homestand on Wednesday afternoon before another weeklong road trip. The trip will be another test for a team that is 18-10 at Miller Park and 13-18 everywhere else. "Even when times were rough for us earlier in the year, nobody on our team panicked," Yost said. "We stayed patient, we understood that things would turn around and guys would get hot and our pitching would go on a run."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.