The Brewers promoted Branyan from Triple-A Nashville on May 24 and he batted .323 in his first nine games with five home runs, two doubles and six RBIs. He also struck out 13 times and walked seven times in 31 at-bats.
The batting average was certainly a pleasant surprise, but the power production and strikeout total fit Branyan's career profile. Through Friday, 126 of Branyan's 437 career hits were home runs, and 768 of his 1,899 at-bats ended in strikeouts.
Branyan is not happy about his current strikeout rate, but is focusing less on results and more on the quality of at-bats. On Friday, he popped out in his first at-bat but was pleased with his approach, and said that feeling translated to success later on, when Branyan and J.J. Hardy teamed for back-to-back solo home runs in the fifth inning.
Brewers manager Ned Yost said he sees the changes Branyan has made since his first stint with the Brewers in 2004 and 2005. Branyan's hands are lower, and his batting stance is more open.
"I try to set the tone early," Branyan said. "That's what I'm learning how to do, to go at things a little bit easier. At the big league level, I've always struggled with getting limited playing time and feeling like when I do play, I have to hit a home run. You have to control the adrenaline."
Branyan attributes his early big league success to his stint at Nashville to start the season. He called a number of teams over the winter looking for a job -- Arizona, San Diego, San Francisco and Tampa Bay among them -- and among the callbacks were Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Rays skipper Joe Maddon. Neither had offers to play.
"It was 'crickets,'" Branyan said. "It wasn't looking too promising."
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin called back while he was waiting for his luggage at the airport in Phoenix, where Melvin had just arrived in the days before the start of Spring Training. The Brewers offered Branyan a chance to play third base in Nashville, Branyan's hometown, but did not offer an invitation to big league camp.
"That was the best thing that could have happened," Branyan said. "I needed to go to Nashville and play."