Braun's early homer sets tone for Brewers
PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun homered in his first at-bat of the year and the Brewers led all nine innings in the traditional opener between the Cactus League's two Phoenix-based teams, beating the A's, 2-1 at Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday.
Braun may be a step ahead of other hitters this spring because he's been preparing to be Team USA's regular left fielder in next month's World Baseball Classic. With two outs in the first inning, he connected with a 1-and-2 pitch from A's starter Jesse Chavez for a solo homer to center field.
"Certainly, it's a good sign," Braun said. "I would rather homer than strike out, especially staying through the middle, hitting the ball the other way. When I'm going my best, that's what I do."
Braun began hitting and throwing well ahead of Christmas in an effort to be ready to play all nine innings by March 8, when Team USA plays its first Classic game against Mexico. He is already planning to ramp up his workload with back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday.
His first-inning home run came right after Oakland missed a chance to take an early lead against Brewers starter Mike Fiers, who loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the first inning before striking out Chris Young on three pitches. Fiers returned to work a 1-2-3 second inning before calling it a day, after allowing one hit and two walks in two scoreless innings.
The Braun homer was Milwaukee's only hit against Chavez, who walked two batters in two innings.
The Brewers tacked on another run in the fourth inning on Jean Segura's RBI groundout, and Oakland answered in the seventh when Shane Peterson greeted Brewers reliever Santo Manzanillo with a double and scored on Michael Choice's single.
In his unofficial A's debut, shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima walked and struck out. He also teamed with second baseman Jemile Weeks to turn a highlight-reel double play in the second inning.
"The environment and the ambience were fabulous, and it pumped me up," Nakajima said through a translator.
Brewers up next: After Mike Fiers made a successful scoreless debut on Saturday, it's another young starter's turn on Sunday at Maryvale Baseball Park against the Indians. Right-hander Mark Rogers will pitch for the first time since Aug. 31, after which the Brewers preemptively shut him down to protect his arm. Rogers was 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in seven starts for Milwaukee last season, and is among four pitchers vying for three openings in the rotation. The 2:05 p.m. CT game will be webcast via Brewers.com.