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Scorching Braun resting up ahead of key trip

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Quantity or quality? As it pertains to left fielder Ryan Braun, the Brewers continue to choose the latter.

Manager Craig Counsell characterized Braun's absence from Wednesday's starting lineup as "just a day off," though it came amid a stretch in which the team plays only two games in four days. The idea has been the same all season: Maximize Braun's production with liberal use of off-days.

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MILWAUKEE -- Quantity or quality? As it pertains to left fielder Ryan Braun, the Brewers continue to choose the latter.

Manager Craig Counsell characterized Braun's absence from Wednesday's starting lineup as "just a day off," though it came amid a stretch in which the team plays only two games in four days. The idea has been the same all season: Maximize Braun's production with liberal use of off-days.

View Full Game Coverage

Counsell and Braun believe it has worked, even though Braun's counting stats don't reflect that. He is on a pace for 17 home runs and 50 RBIs, which would be his lowest totals since a suspension-shortened 2013 season.

"This is the highest my hard-hit percentage has ever been. It's probably the best I've ever swung the bat," Braun said recently. "Obviously, I haven't been on the field much, but when I have been on the field, I've just hit so many balls hard that have ended up being outs."

The numbers reflect that. Braun's 43.7 percent hard-hit percentage, per Fangraphs, is his highest mark since a 43.9 percent in his National League Rookie of the Year campaign in 2007. He's fifth in the NL in that department among players with at least 250 NL plate appearances, behind the Dodgers' Corey Seager (48.4 percent), the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt (46.2 percent), the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger (45.8 percent), and Lucas Duda's tenure with the Mets (44.1 percent before he was traded to the Rays).

And Braun's .383 weighted on-base average is his best since he was runner-up to Buster Posey for NL MVP in 2012.

Braun's fortunes have turned of late. He is 18-for-37 in a nine-game hitting streak through Tuesday night.

"He's swung the bat really well for the past two weeks and he's got a bunch of hits," Counsell said. "He's in a good place. He's a really good hitter. He continues to be a really good hitter. I think he's in a pretty good place health-wise this last stretch, which helps. We'll try to keep here for the last 40 games."

The next 15 games are especially critical. The Brewers begin a nine-game trip to Colorado, San Francisco and Los Angeles on Friday, followed by a homestand against the contending Cardinals and Nationals.

Of the bad luck Braun has endured, Counsell said, "It's part of it. In some years, you're on the good side of it. Some years, you're on the bad side of it. There is luck involved. Pitchers could say the same thing. … I think it's part of the mental challenge of the game for these guys is that they understand that they control part of it, and the other part is out of their hands."

Last call

• Shortstop Orlando Arcia was sidelined a second straight game with back spasms, though there was some hope he will be ready to play Friday's series opener at Colorado. Arcia tightened up after a swing during early batting practice on Tuesday.

"I should be ready by Colorado," Arcia said through translator Carlos Brizuela. "[It is difficult to miss games] right now while the team is fighting for first place."

• With an eye to other matchups in the coming weeks, the Brewers flipped Matt Garza and Brandon Woodruff in the starting rotation. Garza will now pitch Friday vs. the Rockies, and Woodruff on Saturday.

• Reliever Anthony Swarzak had recovered from a stiff neck by Wednesday morning and was available out of the bullpen, Counsell said.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers