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Big game has Braun turning corner

July 10, 2010

MILWAUKEE — It’s safe to say Ryan Braun’s recent slump is a thing of the past.

Before the game against the Pirates on Saturday, manager Ken Macha said he didn’t think Braun had ever experienced such a slump in his life at any level.

From the looks of this series, he won’t have to worry about that anymore.

After a game-winning single in the 10th inning on Friday, Braun broke out in a big way on Saturday night, homering, doubling and scoring three runs to lead the Brewers past the Pirates, 4-3, at Miller Park.

Macha said that players are judged based on the way they respond to adversity, which Braun has had quite a bit of over the past month.

“Hopefully he’s working his way out of it,” said Macha.

Braun belted his 12th home run of the season and his first since June 28, a solo shot to left-center field in the third. Prince Fielder followed with a shot to right, giving the Brewers their fifth set of back-to-back homers this season.

“On 3-2, I challenged Prince, and he made me pay, and Braun hit a fat slider out,” said Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, who was tagged with his fourth loss of the season. “[Braun] has kind of hit me well, so I have to figure that out.”

Braun added a double in the fifth as he went 2-for-4 and scored three of the Brewers’ four runs.

Going back to his final at-bat on Friday night, Braun is 3-for-5 with a home run, two RBIs and three runs scored. Before singling in the sixth inning on Friday, he had been 0-for-19.

“I wouldn’t say I’m locked in, [but] I feel better than I did a couple days ago,” Braun said. “It’s a gradual process. You’ve got to walk before you can run I guess. I’m headed in the right direction and starting to feel better.”

Braun wasn’t the only Brewers starter with an impressive performance.

Right-handed starter Dave Bush delivered his fifth consecutive quality start, giving up just two runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings while walking one and striking out five.

Bush (4-6) picked up the win, his third in his past four decisions. In 18 appearances and 17 starts this season, Bush has 11 quality starts with a 4.14 ERA.

Since getting roughed up for seven runs in just one-third inning in Minnesota on May 21, Bush has gone 3-1 with a 3.37 ERA, with six quality starts. Bush’s performance lately has been as good as it has been since suffering a triceps injury in June 2009 after being struck on the arm with a line drive in Florida.

“The last month or so, I’ve had good command and quite honestly, I’m just feeling stronger,” Bush said. “I feel like I’ve kind of gotten back to the point where I was before I got hurt.

“At the beginning of the year, I was still struggling a little bit with arm strength. It was just a process to getting back to where I felt comfortable. I feel like I have a little more life on the ball now and that sets up my pitches better.”

If not for two bad outings — April 25 vs. Chicago and May 21 at Minnesota — Bush would have a 2.95 ERA with just 30 runs allowed in 91 2/3 innings outside of those two starts.

“The other thing is we really haven’t scored a whole lot of runs for him,” said Macha, whose club is 6-11 when Bush starts. “He’s been a little bit of a tough-luck guy. He came out of a game the other day [with the score] 1-1, pitched very well.

“What’s that [17] starts now? He’s probably given us a chance [to win] in 14 of them.”

Bush allowed two baserunners with just one out in the first, but he settled down nicely the rest of the way, retiring nine of the next 10 batters and 14 of the next 18 before finally giving up a run in the sixth on a Garrett Jones homer to lead off the inning.

Behind Bush, the Brewers got another strong performance from the bullpen as reliever Kameron Loe and Zach Braddock combined for 1 2/3 scoreless innings before handing it off to John Axford.

The closer gave up a home run to lead off the ninth — the first he has allowed in his Brewers career — and proceeded to retire the next three hitters, recording his 10th save in as many chances

With the victory, the Brewers won consecutive games for the first time since winning five in a row from June 20-25.

“The back-to-back wins for the team were more important than the back-to-back homers,” Braun said. “Obviously yesterday was a good win for us, today’s a good win, and it’d be real nice to come out and win tomorrow and go into the All-Star break with some momentum.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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