MILWAUKEE — When Braves manager Bobby Cox and his coaches changed into unimaginably bold zoot suits, fedoras and patent-leather shoes Wednesday afternoon for the team’s flight back to Atlanta, it was the perfect, entirely out of character ending to the improbable series that had just unfolded.
The Braves, after totaling 33 runs and three homers in a 2-11 stretch of road games before Milwaukee, racked up 28 runs and five homers among 35 hits in a three-game sweep of the Brewers at Miller Park, capped by a 9-2 win Wednesday.
“We had a great road trip, turned it around a little bit,” said Cox, whose Braves finished 5-4 on a trip that began with series losses at Washington and Philadelphia. “We got some clutch hitting — a lot of hitting. We could have done a little bit better in Philly, but it was a good road trip for the club.”
The first road-series sweep of the season for the Braves gave them an 8-4 record since the nine-game skid that put them alone in the National League East cellar.
On Wednesday they moved into a fourth-place tie with Florida and gained a game on division leader Philadelphia, pulling within 4-1/2 games of the Phillies.
“It’s huge to sweep another series,” said Braves rookie Jason Heyward, who lashed a two-out, RBI double off first baseman Prince Fielder in the seventh inning to give the Braves a 4-2 lead, before the floodgates opened.
“And it’s big for us to sweep on the road. That’s the best finish to a trip. … We knew if we continued to work and stay positive, things would turn around.”
The clothes that Cox and his coaches changed into afterward left Braves players howling in approval. Players had not known about the coaches’ plans to wear the outfits, which were going to be used only for a private picture-taking moment the previous day between the coaches and Cox as part of his farewell season.
“Eddie [Perez, bullpen coach] and I have been talking about this for a couple of years,” said hitting coach Terry Pendleton, who got the idea when they would ride past Johnny Walker’s men’s store in downtown Milwaukee. “We wanted to do something different with Skipper [Cox], so we all came in here early yesterday, took some pictures with him.
“It was Skipper’s idea to wear these home today. We were like, no way. He said, ‘We’ve got to wear them home.’ So we’re in ‘em.”
Cox also told the coaches that the Braves had better win Wednesday or risk looking like clowns as they left the ballpark in their bright, long-tailed polyester suits and hats, including Kangols, porkpies and fedoras.
Every coach was dressed to the nines, including Pendleton in a lavender suit with a purple cap, purple shoes and a purple vest. Cox wore orange slacks with a jacket that featured wide orange-and-white pinstripes.
“Wags, would this go well on the farm?” Cox said to closer Billy Wagner, who laughed and said, “I don’t know about that, but it looks good on you.”
The players loved it, almost as much as they did what transpired on the field at Miller Park the past three days.
They had a three-game home series against Houston before the trip, but that good feeling turned sour on the road when they dropped two of three against the Nationals and two of three against the Phillies.
The Brewers, coming off a sweep at Arizona, seemed like a formidable foe. They were the highest-scoring team in the NL entering the series, and the Braves were one of the league’s worst in most offensive categories.
So much for that. The Braves outscored them 28-7 in three games, with 17 runs coming in 9 1/3 innings against Milwaukee relievers.
“We needed a series like this,” said Braves starter Derek Lowe (5-3), who pitched six strong innings Wednesday, allowing six hits and two runs while pitching with a revamped approach that included many more inside pitches.
“I think it’s well-documented how we’ve been on the road. Haven’t been very good,” he said. “To come in here and have three consecutive games where we were able to hold them to reasonable amounts of runs is pretty good pitching.
“We had a lot of hitting. But if you look at the games, for the most part they were close until about the sixth inning. They were close games. I think that goes to show you, one of our strengths is our bullpen depth. We’ve been saying this since we left spring training. We have six guys that we can put out there at any time in any situation.”