PHILADELPHIA -- What's tougher? Playing gut-wrenching innings like the ones the Brewers endured late Saturday night, or watching them?Definitely the latter, according to Ryan Braun, who experienced it on Saturday.Braun retired from a three-day absence and reached safely in all four of his plate appearances against the Phillies, driving in
PHILADELPHIA -- What's tougher? Playing gut-wrenching innings like the ones the Brewers endured late Saturday night, or watching them?
Definitely the latter, according to Ryan Braun, who experienced it on Saturday.
Braun retired from a three-day absence and reached safely in all four of his plate appearances against the Phillies, driving in four runs, scoring three while finishing a triple shy of the cycle before manager Craig Counsell lifted him with a seemingly safe seven-run lead in the seventh inning. Braun had to watch as the Phillies stormed back to tie the game in the eighth before the Brewers scored in the ninth for a wild, 9-8 win at Citizens Bank Park to snap a six-game losing streak.
"We got quite the scare watching them come back," said Braun, who'd missed the previous three games with a sore right wrist. "For me, physically, I felt fine. But the story of the game was being able to find a way to pull that one out. Things have not been going our way, but sometimes all you need is that one win to turn everything around as a team."
Braun's return to action surely helped, especially in this ballpark. With three hits Saturday -- a single over the head of Phillies righty Jeremy Hellickson in the first inning, a two-run double to spark a four-run Brewers rally in the third, and a two-run home run in the fifth before Braun walked and scored in the sixth -- Braun boosted his slash line in 30 career games at Citizens Bank Park to a robust .398/.449/.756. That's a 1.205 OPS.
Asked whether he could explain it, Braun said, "I can't, and if I was able to, I would try to duplicate it."
The task ahead for Counsell is keeping Braun healthy and productive for as many of the Brewers' remaining 62 regular-season games as possible. He has already missed significant time this season with a left calf strain and has also nursed a right wrist injury for which Braun had a cortisone shot before the All-Star break.
He played the Brewers' first five games of the second half before sitting out three in a row through Friday as the team's losing streak reached six.
"He goes up there and you can kind of see, it changes the game," said Brent Suter, who took a tough-luck no-decision Saturday after pitching six quality innings. "It instills a little bit of fear in the pitcher."
Naturally, Braun's spot came up in the ninth, and it changed the complexion of the inning. Hernan Perez batted there instead, and Counsell called for a sacrifice bunt.
"Look, I think in hindsight, yeah, you'd change your mind," Counsell said of the call to get Braun off his feet. "But we're up seven in the seventh and we've had injury problems with Ryan. I'm trying to be proactive there and try to get him some rest before a day game."
After the Phillies scored four runs in the seventh inning and three in the eighth, Eric Thames led off the ninth with a double. Perez's bunt was within reach of Phillies closer Hector Neris, who threw out Thames as he attempted to advance to third. Perez then went to third on Travis Shaw's single before scoring the winning run when Domingo Santana singled, too.
"It's scarier watching a game like that than being a part of it and knowing you'll have an opportunity to hopefully influence the outcome," Braun said. "I was probably just as nervous as any other fan watching that game."
Braun will be back in the lineup for Sunday's series finale.
"I'll never take my health for granted, especially the way this year has gone," Braun said.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.