Milwaukee – The Braves scored twice as many runs Wednesday than in the first two games of the series, and they did it the hard way, against ace Yovani Gallardo.
But a two-run lead was flimsy against the hard-charging Brewers, who completed a three-game sweep of the Braves with an 8-2 romp, their first sweep over the Braves since April of 2006.
The Brewers outscored the Braves 17-3 in the three games at Miller Park, while the Braves managed only one extra-base hit and one RBI, both on a solo shot by Jason Heyward in the first inning Wednesday.
The Braves headed home after a 3-3 trip to host the Nationals, who just opened up their largest lead of the season on the Braves in the NL East at 8 ½ games.
The Braves still maintain a 5 ½ game lead on the reeling Cardinals for the first of two National League wild cards spot. But both the Brewers and Phillies are racing up the standings, now trailing the Cardinals by only three games each, and playing with abandon.
“We’re lucky to be where we are,” said Chipper Jones, whose fifth-inning error opened the door for the Brewers.
Trailing 2-0 after four innings, the Brewers blew past the Braves with an eight-run fifth inning off Paul Maholm. Rickie Weeks hit a three-run homer and Travis Ishikawa a three-run double in a span of six batters.
Maholm has won only one of his past 19 starts against the Brewers, a team he faced regularly with both the Cubs and Pirates. On Wednesday he gave up five consecutive one-out hits, a walk, and a gapper to left-handed Ishikawa, when manager Fredi Gonzalez left him in looking for a groundball.
“If you give a hot team extra outs and not make your pitches, then they’re going to take advantage of it,” Maholm said.
The eight runs (six earned) in 4 1/3 innings were a season-high for Maholm, who has allowed 15 runs (13 earned) in 11 1/3 innings over his past three starts – including 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Mets.
The Brewers gave Jones a year’s supply of bratwurst as a retirement gift before the game and a case of heartburn during it. The fifth inning started with his fielding error and included two infield hits on balls hit his way.
Jones bobbled a Jeff Bianchi grounder to start the inning, and made a nice diving stop on Norichka Aoki but without much use for trying to catch the speedy runner at first. Weeks followed with a three-run home run to right center, his second home run in the past two games.
Three batters later, Aramis Ramirez found him again on a grounder up the third base line which Jones charged and fielded but couldn’t get out of his glove. That helped load the bases for Ishikawa.
“I take responsibility for that one,” Jones said. “Got off on a bad note. I should have made that play.”
The Braves waited three days for their first RBI in the series and got it on Heyward’s 26th home run of the season in the first inning. Heyward unloaded on a 3-0 fastball from Gallardo 423 feet to the second deck in right field.
The Braves went up 2-0 after a Jones leadoff walk in the fourth and Freddie Freeman single. Dan Uggla drove in the run on a double play grounder, just as Andrelton Simmons did for the Braves’ only run in the first two games of the series. Not making more of that opportunity was almost foreboding.
“Early in the game we made some great defensive plays,” Gonzalez said. “The guys were bouncing everywhere and you thought ‘OK, here we go, we’re turning it around.’ But you know, it’s hard to win ball games when we score three runs in three games.”