Braun's first homer at Miller ignites rout of Cubs
Slugger's first blast at home in over a year starts five-run inning
MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun hit his first home run at Miller Park in more than a year, and the Brewers were just getting started.
Braun's opposite-field blast accounted for the first two of five first-inning runs in an 11-5 win over the Cubs that saw four Brewers collect three hits and seven Brewers drive in a run -- a rout that left the team on the verge of setting a franchise record for offense.
It took the Brewers less than three innings to collect 10 hits against Cubs starter Travis Wood, marking the ninth straight game Milwaukee hitters had put double digits in the hit column. The streak matches a franchise record set by Robin Yount, Paul Molitor & Co. in 1983 and tied by Braun, Prince Fielder and their teammates in 2011.
No other Major League team had logged 10-plus hits in as many as nine consecutive games since the Brewers did it in '11. These Brewers will try to make it 10 games in a row on Saturday afternoon against Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel.
"It's one of those rare occasions where everybody, up and down the lineup, is really swinging the bats well," Braun said. "Typically you have a couple guys swinging while a couple of guys are not swinging well. It's certainly encouraging to see us swinging the bats as well as we have.
"But at the same time, it's such a challenging game; you never make any assumptions that it's going to continue. You enjoy it while it lasts."
With a season-high 11 runs, the Brewers moved to 11 games over .500 and extended their division lead over the second-place Cardinals to four games.
Wood, a left-hander coming off consecutive quality starts -- including a seven-inning performance against the Brewers at Wrigley Field last week -- found trouble from the start. Brewers leadoff man Jean Segura singled off Wood's glove before Braun hit a fastball over the right-field fence for a quick 2-0 lead.
It was Braun's eighth home run this season, but the first seven came on the road. He had not homered in a home game since last May 22 against the Dodgers, exactly two months before his 2013 season ended with a suspension.
Asked whether he realized it had been so long, Braun said: "Not really. I just always try to have good at-bats, hit the ball on the barrel. … Somebody had brought it up, but I don't really remember. I've hit a lot of balls hard. That's all I can do."
Braun finished Friday with three hits and three RBIs to take sole possession of fourth place on the Brewers' all-time leaderboard with 707 RBIs. He entered the night tied with Geoff Jenkins.
Was the opposite-field power a sign Braun's right rib-cage strain was no longer nagging?
"I feel like I've hit a lot of balls hard," Braun said. "I actually feel like I've been unlucky over the last [number of] games. I've had a lot of good at-bats and hit a lot of balls on the barrel. Sometimes they fall; sometimes they don't."
Segura, Braun, Rickie Weeks and Martin Maldonado each had three hits and were among the seven Brewers batters who drove in at least one run. That list included starting pitcher Marco Estrada, whose run-scoring sacrifice bunt came amid the Brewers' four-run fifth inning.
Every Brewers position player but third baseman Mark Reynolds had a hit by the end of the second inning. Khris Davis' home run streak ended at three games, but he doubled twice, scored twice and is on an eight-game hitting streak. Carlos Gomez extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Weeks had his three hits, three runs scored and two RBIs by the end of the fifth inning. Maldonado, batting eighth, had an RBI double in the first inning, an RBI single in the third and another single in the fifth for his second three-hit game this season.
The cushion helped Estrada win for the third time in his past four starts. He surrendered three Cubs runs on six hits in six innings, with four walks and five strikeouts.
"Obviously my last two outings before today have been kind of all over the place, and I know I walked four guys, but I felt really good," Estrada said. "I'm feeling much better mentally, physically. I made a lot of good pitches today. Quality pitches. That one inning [the third] they scored the two runs, they just kind of put the ball in play, and balls just kind of got through. There's nothing you can do about that; you've just got to keep making pitches. I thought overall it was a pretty good game."
For Wood, it was the opposite.
"Three pitches into it, I was two runs down," the Cubs lefty said. "It's tough to get into a rhythm there. They got to me early and did what they need to do. That's a good team over there."
It was a dramatic departure from May 18 at Wrigley Field, where Wood held the Brewers to two runs and two hits over seven innings, with seven strikeouts. The Brewers were a completely different offense on Friday.
"We are, no question," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody's swinging the bat well, and there's no doubt when everybody's hitting like this and there are mistakes made, we're not missing like we were earlier."