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Braun belts 30th shot, a walk-off winner

Braun belts walk-off shot to win it

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun picked a perfect time to end his home run drought.

Braun, stuck at 29 homers for his previous 15 games, launched a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 7-5 Brewers win over the Phillies on Fan Appreciation Night at Miller Park on Saturday.

It was Braun's second career walk-off home run, the other coming on a grand slam last Sept. 25 in the thick of a pennant race. His blast didn't quite have the same juice on Saturday, when the Brewers committed two errors and Braden Looper surrendered two more home runs, but Milwaukee rallied from a four-run deficit to win.

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"I think a walk-off home run is about as good a feeling as you can have as a professional athlete," Braun said. "That will definitely not get old."

Craig Counsell tied the game with a two-run single in the sixth inning and scored a pair of runs, and Trevor Hoffman (2-2) picked up the win after pitching a perfect top of the ninth. Counsell singled off Phillies reliever Tyler Walker (2-1) before Braun won the game.

The victory boosted the Brewers to 77-78 overall and 40-40 at Miller Park. They need another win Sunday to avoid posting their first losing record at home since 2004.

"I think everybody always wants to finish strong," Braun said. "You want to go into the offseason feeling good about where you left off as a team. You want the fans to be excited about next year. You want ownership and management to recognize that we still want to win and we're still working hard. Next year, we want to have an opportunity to go back to the postseason. The attendance and the support this year has been incredible, even with us not performing as well as we want to."

The Brewers officially passed the three-million attendance mark for the second straight season with Saturday's crowd of 40,141, and every last player and coach piled into golf carts about 90 minutes before the game for a tour of the parking lots to say thanks.

"I think our banners say it all," said Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio.

He was referring to two huge banners flanking the scoreboard during the season's final homestand. "Thank you, fans," they read, "three million times."

"All over baseball, and the people I've talked to in other sports, everybody can't believe we drew three million fans," Attanasio said. "There's huge support for the baseball team here. We wish we had more to give back this year, but it motivates me to do everything we can during this offseason to get back to the postseason next year."

Attanasio wouldn't say whether the team was budgeting for an attendance dip in 2010.

"I prefer to think that we're going to put an exciting team on the field next year and I think our fans will respond," Attanasio said. "I look to the positives, not the negatives."

Milwaukee's offense bailed out Looper, but once again the long ball hurt him. He surrendered a two-run homer in the second inning to Phillies catcher Paul Bako -- a former Brewers player who has 24 career home runs in parts of 12 big league seasons -- with two outs and the pitcher on deck. Both runs were unearned because of an error charged to second baseman Felipe Lopez earlier in the inning.

Looper also surrendered a homer leading off the fifth to slugger Ryan Howard, Howard's 43rd home run this season and his 136th RBI. Looper has allowed 39 home runs this season, most in the Majors.

"That's one of the better lineups in the National League, so if I don't give up that homer to Bako I feel pretty good about tonight," Looper said.

Prince Fielder kept the Major League lead with his 137th RBI on a sacrifice fly in the Brewers' two-run third inning. But the Brewers trailed, 5-3, in the sixth, when Phillies reliever Jamie Moyer walked pinch-hitter Jason Bourgeois with two outs and surrendered a bloop double to Lopez. Counsell followed with a popup to shallow right field, where Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins gave chase but missed a basket catch and was initially charged with a tough error. Three innings later, it was charged to a hit for Counsell and two RBIs.

Whatever the scoring decision, the teams were tied at 5. It would stay that way until the bottom of the ninth.

"The pitch to Braun, I just looked at it a second ago," said Walker, a Phillies right-hander. "It was not quite away, not quite down enough. He's a tremendous hitter and you make a mistake like that -- he's going to make you pay for it."

Fielder was on deck when Braun ended the game and was right in the thick of the muted celebration that met Braun. It was nothing like Sept. 6, when Fielder's walk-off shot beat the Giants and his teammates tumbled to the ground when Fielder jumped on home plate.

"I think everybody was probably interested to see what we would do," Braun said, with Fielder smiling a few lockers over. "We had some ideas, but we'll put everything on the back burner for now."

That probably had something to do with the angry reaction from some in the San Francisco clubhouse after Fielder's stunt. The Phillies, like the Giants, are contending for the playoffs, and Braun figured it was better to play it straight.

"I think people take things the wrong way," Braun said. "Our intent is not to disrespect anybody or [tick] anybody off. When it gets to that point, it's not worth it to us. We'll put that on hold for now."

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

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