Posted on 23 June 2011.
The Milwaukee Brewers still haven’t lost consecutive home games this season – Zack Greinke helped make sure of that Tuesday night.
Turning in his best outing of the season, the right-hander scattered four hits and struck out 10 over seven innings to lead the Brewers past the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-1, in front of a crowd of 40, 079 at Miller Park.
It was the second win in five interleague games for Milwaukee, which remains the lone team in the major leagues to have not experienced a losing streak on its home field.
More important, though, was the fact it got the team back into sole possession of first place in the National League Central after the Philadelphia Phillies beat down the St. Louis Cardinals, 10-2. Ryan Braun delivered the big hit, a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh to break the game open for the Brewers , who close out just their second series ever with the Rays and a stretch of 20 consecutive games on Wednesday afternoon.
The Brewers made Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson work in the opening innings.
The right-hander walked three of the first four batters he faced to load the bases with one out, setting the stage for a sacrifice fly to left by Casey McGehee that plated Rickie Weeks with the first run of the game.
Corey Hart struck out on a low and outside pitch to end the rally, but Yuniesky Betancourt picked him up to lead off the second with a solo home run into the Brewers’ bullpen in left-center.
It was Betancourt’s fourth homer of the season and first in just over a month. Even more impressive was the fact it came on the second offering he saw from Hellickson, as Betancourt is a notorious first-ball hitter.
Hellickson settled down from there. Greinke, meanwhile, was dealing.
Coming off his worst start in a Brewers uniform – a 51/3-inning, eight-hit, eightrun loss at Chicago last week – he opened the game with a pair of strikeouts. Through four innings he had seven, including the side in the third as he rolled through the Tampa Bay lineup.
The Rays managed to get a runner as far as third base just once – in the fourth inning – but it wasn’t until the seventh that they actually broke through for a run. B.J. Upton doubled down the right-field line and then scored on a single to right by John Jaso to break up the shutout.
Greinke, who had to work hard to get out of the sixth after a 10-pitch at-bat by Matt Joyce, needed a major effort to get through the rest of the seventh, but managed to do so by striking out Reid Brignac and getting Sam Fuld – pinch-hitting for Hellickson – to ground out to first.
Greinke’s departure was made official in the Brewers’ half of the seventh, when he was lifted in favor of pinch hitter Craig Counsell with his pitch count at 116. He allowed four hits, a new low as a member of the Brewers , while matching a season high with 10 strikeouts without a walk.
The seven-inning stint also matched a season high for Greinke, who has now thrown seven in three of his last four outings and improved his record to 7-2. Counsell wound up walking against Rays reliever Adam Russell, giving the Brewers two on after a leadoff infield single by Jonathan Lucroy. Manager Ron Roenicke then pinch-hit Josh Wilson for Nyjer Morgan when Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon brought in left-hander J.P. Howell, and Wilson walked to load the bases.
Maddon then left Howell in to face the right-handedhitting Braun, who’d missed Monday’s game with an upper respiratory viral infection and was 0 for 2 with a walk to that point. Fittingly, Braun responded with the game’s biggest hit, a two-run single to left to make it 4-1. Prince Fielder then followed with another single to left that ultimately scored Wilson. The play was an interesting one as the utility man had to jump over Jaso at home as the catcher tried fielding the throw from leftfielder Johnny Damon. Wilson missed home plate altogether and then had to crawl back and tag the plate.
Kameron Loe then pitched a scoreless eighth and John Axford a scoreless ninth to slam the door.
Hellickson took the loss for Tampa Bay after allowing three hits, four walks and two earned runs in six innings of work. He’s now 7-6.
HANGING IN THERE Despite going 2-6 in their last eight games heading into Tuesday, the Milwaukee Brewers were 26-14 (.650) since May 9, which was the best record in the National League and the second-best in the majors. Boston led the way at 28-10 (.737) and Arizona was right behind Milwaukee at 24-16 (.600).
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Copyright, 2011, Journal Sentinel, All Rights Reserved.