PHILADELPHIA -- While the Brewers endured two losses in as many games in Cleveland, Ryan Braun pondered the future. He told Brewers manager Craig Counsell he was looking forward to arriving in this city, a place where, for some unknown reason, he sees the ball better than he does elsewhere."As
PHILADELPHIA -- While the Brewers endured two losses in as many games in Cleveland, Ryan Braun pondered the future. He told Brewers manager Craig Counsell he was looking forward to arriving in this city, a place where, for some unknown reason, he sees the ball better than he does elsewhere.
"As a competitor, it's always a fun place to play," Braun said. "My first five, six years in the league this was one of the marquee teams, one of the toughest places to play."
Sure, but now with that era of the Phillies long gone, it's fun for Braun because he rakes at Citizens Bank Park, where on Friday night he slugged two home runs during the Brewers' 12-4 demolition of the Phillies to pull his team out of a three-game losing streak.
"It's a night the offense needed for sure," Counsell said.
Braun opened the scoring in the series opener with a three-run home run to left field off Phillies starter Vince Velasquez in the first inning. It left his bat at 109.4 mph, according to Statcast™. It was a barreled ball, but weak compared to what he did in the fourth inning.
After the Brewers chased Velasquez that frame, Braun was the first to face Phillies reliever Mark Leiter Braun welcomed him with another home run, this one a line drive to left field that left his bat at 112.9 mph. That tied his highest exit velocity on any home run since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015 (he also hit one 112.9 mph on May 25, 2015). He now has eight homers on the season.
Braun's fourth-inning blast was also the second hardest-hit homer for the Brewers this year, behind a 113.5-mph shot by Travis Shaw on April 6.
"He's capable of a lot, that's for sure," Counsell said. "He's capable of nights like this, where he does a majority of the damage."
The fans of Philadelphia are used to booing Braun, as they did every time he stepped in the batter's box, because he's now hit 24 home runs against the Phillies in 67 career games, with 13 of those coming at Citizens Bank Park. Four of his career 29 multihomer games have come against the Phillies. He is hitting .400 (52-for-130) with a 1.244 OPS in 32 career games at Citizens Bank Park, the highest of any player with at least 120 plate appearances in the ballpark's history that dates back to 2004.
"It's important for us where we go through some of these stretches where we face adversity," Braun said, "to be able to bounce back and get back on the winning side of things as quickly as possible."
The offensive eruption came at an opportune time for the Brewers, who entered Friday having lost three straight games and four of the first five of their current eight-game road trip. Because the Cubs beat the Pirates earlier Friday, a loss would have dropped Milwaukee out of first place in the National League Central for the first time since May 18. It also would have marked the second time the Brewers had lost four consecutive games this season.
Instead, they unleashed a run total that more than doubled their previous high from this road trip of five runs.
"It's production. It's balancing it out. It's more tough outs. It's length in the lineup. That goes for a lot of guys, not just Ryan," Counsell said. "I think to be consistent, you gotta share the load and everybody's gotta share the lift."
Braun's home run started it all after Jesus Aguilar and Shaw each drew two-out walks in the top of the first. The Brewers added two more runs the next inning thanks to RBI hits from Orlando Arcia and Lorenzo Cain. After a scoreless third, four straight hits with two outs in the Brewers' half of the fourth inning forced Phillies manager Gabe Kapler to go to the bullpen.
That's when Braun smashed a 2-2 curveball into the netting on the left-field foul pole and effectively ended the game. The Brewers tagged Velasquez for 10 runs. He had allowed eight runs in the entire month of May.
"Oh man, they were hunting today," Velasquez said. "Their bats were live. A tough lineup, and they've been solid throughout this day, and I'm sure the rest of the season. They have a solid lineup right there. But you can get them out. You can get them out."
Not this Friday night. Those 10 runs off Velasquez, supplemented with Braun's home run and another eighth-inning solo shot from Christian Yelich, was plenty for Jhoulys Chacin to work with, and the Brewers held onto their grip of the NL Central for another night.
"Especially recognizing how many teams are in our division, we don't have the luxury of being able to play poorly for very long and staying in this race," Braun said. "It was important to get off to a good start tonight and hopefully get back to playing baseball the way we were for the majority of the first two months of the season."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Chacin's sacrifice bunt in the fourth inning put a Brewer on second base with two outs. It seemed like a chance to add a small-ball run and nothing more. But after Cain, Yelich, Aguilar and Shaw ripped four consecutive hits off Velasquez, a comfortable five-run lead had ballooned into an insurmountable nine-run gap.
"It's the game every night," Counsell said. "You get a lot of hits with men in scoring position, you're going to have a big offensive night."
The Phillies had to bring in Leiter, and Braun used the eighth pitch of his at-bat to pile on two more runs. Considering the Phillies had only surpassed 11 runs once all season, the game was all but over.
The Brewers have now won nine of the last 10 games started by Chacin, who struck out seven and walked one. In his last 11 games, Chacin has posted a 2.92 ERA.
"If my team wins," Chacin said, "that's all I care about."
The decision to sign Chacin over free agents of a higher profile, such as Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn, has paid off. In a busy offseason that included the arrival of Cain and Yelich, Chacin's presence in the rotation has been one of the most consistent aspects of the first third of the season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Nick Williams sent an eighth-inning blooper to shallow center field. Arcia raced back to make the catch, but the ball popped out of his glove -- and straight into that of a sliding Cain. The center fielder jumped to his feet, smiled, threw the ball into the infield and tipped his cap.
"That's the catch that Arcia seems to make with his eyes closed, so it's shocking he doesn't catch the ball," Counsell said. "But Lo was right there, right in the spot ready to make a nice play. He'll get some highlight love for that one." More >
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Williams tripled off the wall in center field in the seventh, but the Phillies, thinking it was a home run, challenged the call. After a crew-chief review, the call was confirmed.
Brent Suter (5-4, 4.55 ERA) is on the hill for the Brewers for Saturday's 12:05 p.m. CT game at Citizens Bank Park. He took the loss his last time out despite allowing just two runs on three hits through five innings to the White Sox. The Phillies start Jacob Arrieta (5-3, 2.66 ERA) after he allowed five runs in a loss at San Francisco in his last start.
Joe Bloss is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia.