"As much as the bullpen kind of melted down yesterday," manager Ken Macha said, "those guys got the job done today."
So did the Milwaukee offense. J.J. Hardy scored a run and drove in two more, Frank Catalanotto hit his first home run in more than a year, Prince Fielder padded his club record with his 78th RBI before the All-Star break, and Brewers starter Mike Burns contributed with the bat. The pitcher laced a run-scoring single off Dodgers starter Jeff Weaver (5-3) in the fourth inning for a 4-0 Brewers lead.
Burns (2-2) was thrown out trying to stretch his hit to a double, then nearly let the lead slip away in the next half-inning. He surrendered a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth to Rafael Furcal, whose error in the first inning contributed to two unearned Brewers runs. Andre Ethier followed four pitches later with a solo shot that suddenly cut the deficit to one run in the span of two batters.
Next up was Manny Ramirez, who was 24 hours removed from tying Mickey Mantle for 15th on Major League Baseball's home run list.
"It is dangerous," Burns said. "You're looking at one pitch from a tie ballgame."
He threw four pitches to Ramirez, who flied out softly to right field to end the inning.
"They pitched well," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, whose club struck out 11 times. "We put pressure on them when we got close, but that was as close as we got."
The Brewers' bullpen took it the rest of the way, and Hardy added two key insurance runs with a two-run double off former Brewers pitcher Guillermo Mota in the eighth. Hardy, Fielder and Craig Counsell led the way with two hits apiece, and Hardy improved to 4-for-7 in the series.
Hardy, an All-Star himself two years ago, is finishing the first half strong.
"That's what I want to do," Hardy said. "It would be nice to go into the second half feeling good."
That's a nice sentiment for the entire team, which had lost seven of its last nine games before Saturday. With their win, the Brewers pulled back to within two games of the National League Central-leading Cardinals, who lost to the Cubs earlier in the day.
"It's real big for us," Catalanotto said. "We haven't had much luck, and we haven't played well, either. Especially after [Friday's] loss, that was a tough one, it was big to come back and win this one today."
Catalanotto has started three straight games in right field in place of a banged-up Corey Hart, and his solo home run off Weaver in the fourth was Catalanotto's first since he took Detroit's Justin Verlander deep on April 21, 2008.
"It was nice to finally round the bases and be able to jog," he said. "It's a good feeling. It's been a while."
For Burns, it was a bounce-back from a loss at Wrigley Field five days earlier in which he had allowed seven Cubs runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. Against the Dodgers, Burns recorded only one more out, but was much more effective in his five innings, holding the damage to three runs on six hits with a career high seven strikeouts.
Here's the key: No walks.
"He's done excellent," Macha said.
Take away the bad start against the Cubs, and Burns has a 3.80 ERA for the Brewers.
"This game is crazy," Burns said. "I had good fastball command tonight, like my last outing. I threw a couple hanging curveballs that [Dodgers hitters] took for strike threes, and when I did bury them, they chased them. In my last outing, it seemed like they would hit those hangers over the fence, and the ones I buried, they would take for balls.
"That's just the way the game is. We had a good game plan and it was about going after them to get ahead, keep those bad pitches, like in the fifth inning, to a minimum."
It might have been Burns' last Brewers start for a while. He joined the rotation after the Brewers demoted left-hander Manny Parra and lost right-hander Dave Bush to a triceps injury. Now Parra is back, and Bush set to rejoin the rotation on July 20 in Pittsburgh, if all goes well in his second Minor League rehab appearance Wednesday.
Macha wouldn't hint at the plan for Burns, who did make his first appearance for the Brewers this year in relief. Someone will have to vacate the 25-man roster to make room for Bush.
"You hope for the best," Burns said. "I'm hoping to stick around."