Hardy goes yard twice as Brewers roll

Hardy goes yard twice

PHOENIX -- The Brewers took an early lead with their bats. They saved a much-needed win with their gloves.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy stayed hot with two home runs and three RBIs as the Brewers roughed up D-backs starter Randy Johnson, then hung on with some defensive gems for an 8-6 win at Chase Field on Tuesday.

Joe Dillon also homered, Corey Hart had three hits and scored twice and Mike Rivera drove in two runs in a rare start at first base as Milwaukee made a winner of Jeff Suppan (5-6), who struggled with command but still managed to snap a personal two-game losing streak.

Johnson (4-7) lasted only 3 2/3 innings in his shortest start this season and surrendered seven runs. Hardy figured in four of them, hitting a two-run home run to straightaway center field in the first inning, a solo home run in the second and then walking and scoring for the third time in the fourth.

"We know he's not the same as he used to be," Hardy said of the left-hander Johnson. "He's not throwing 100 mph with 93 mph sliders, but he's still a really good pitcher. It's nice to get out there and get out to an early start."

The Brewers needed all the runs they could get. Suppan was staked to leads of 3-0 and 7-1 but surrendered five runs on nine hits in five innings and allowed Arizona to get as close as 7-5 entering the sixth inning.

Milwaukee's defense prevented the D-backs from finishing the comeback. Third baseman Bill Hall went 0-for-4 at the plate with three strikeouts but made a pair of highlight-worthy defensive plays, and Rivera, who spelled Prince Fielder at first base, may have saved the game with an unassisted double play in the eighth.

"Tonight was basically an offensive game," Suppan said. "But I think defensively, we came out and made some incredible plays throughout the entire game."

Hall ranged right for speedy second baseman Orlando Hudson's grounder and made a leaping, no-hop throw to Rivera for the second out of the first inning. He also made a spectacular diving catch to rob Augie Ojeda of an extra-base hit down the line in the sixth, and picked a ground ball on a short hop before throwing out Justin Upton in the ninth.

The other gem belonged to Rivera, who made his first start since Spring Training at first base so Fielder could have a day off against Johnson. With one out, a run in, a runner on first base and Arizona threatening against reliever Guillermo Mota in the eighth inning, Arizona catcher Miguel Montero hit a rocket to Rivera, who made a diving catch of what appeared to be a fair ball, then tapped first base before Chris Young could get back.

"I was holding the runner and he just hit it right at me," Rivera said. "I'm just glad that I can contribute."

Hardy was more effusive in his praise.

"That play was huge," Hardy said. "[If the ball gets through] they score a run there and have another runner in scoring position with one out."

The Brewers made defense a priority in Spring Training. With nights like Tuesday, it appears to have paid off.

"We might have 'Web Gems' covered tonight," Hall said. "I think defense won the game more than our offense did tonight."

Salomon Torres worked the ninth inning for his 14th save and Hardy handled most of the offense. He extended the longest hitting streak by a Brewer this season to 13 games, a run that started a day after Hardy moved permanently back to the No. 2 spot in manager Ned Yost's batting order. Hardy missed a week in the middle of his streak with a bum left shoulder, but in 14 games since the switch he's batting .351 with four home runs, eight doubles and 12 RBIs.

In his first 57 games, Hardy hit .246 with four home runs, nine doubles and 18 RBIs.

"I think those couple days off were the best thing," Hardy said. "[The shoulder] is the best it's been all year."

The lineup shuffle didn't hurt. When he was hitting seventh, Hardy usually batted in front of the pitcher because the Brewers were hitting catcher Jason Kendall ninth.

"Batting in front of the pitcher kind of played mind games with me," Hardy said. "I wasn't too excited about it. I feel comfortable anywhere in the lineup as long as it's somewhere not in front of the pitcher."

Yost is happy to have Hardy's bat heated up. But he's not thrilled about using the batting order as an excuse.

"You can't out-think yourself depending on what spot you're hitting in the lineup," Yost said.

Suppan was not exactly sharp. Over his past three starts, Suppan has surrendered 12 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings.

On Tuesday, he was just good enough.

"He got through five innings with the lead, and I'll take that," Yost said. "He didn't let it get away."

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