Homer barrage lifts Braves to victory
Trio of blasts supports Vazquez, vanquishes Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- For Braves hitters, Friday's series opener in Milwaukee was one those games that you don't want to end.
The Braves knocked out a season-high 17 hits -- including three home runs -- and Javier Vazquez earned his third consecutive win as the Braves beat the Brewers, 9-4, on Friday night at Miller Park.
"Seventeen hits, I think [six] walks? It was a fun night to be out there swinging," Chipper Jones said.
The club's 17 hits were the most they've had in a nine-inning game since May 11 against the Mets, and the most since they've knocked out since putting up 16 hits in 15 innings against Pittsburgh on June 8.
Only one member of Atlanta's starting lineup -- Brian McCann -- wasn't able to pick up a hit against five different Milwaukee pitchers. Jones and Garret Anderson each had three hits a piece to lead Atlanta, while four others had two hits, as the Braves won for the seventh time in their past nine games.
"It was all up and down the lineup," Jones said of the amount of hits. "Yeah, Mac had a rough game, but somebody always gets left out in those 15-, 16-, 17-hit games."
McCann may have been left out Friday, but the All-Star catcher can take solace in the fact that his team didn't need him too much against the Brewers.
After Atlanta picked up a run in the second inning, Martin Prado hit a three-run homer in the third to put the Braves up four in the early going.
Brewers second baseman Craig Counsell cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the third with a double down the right-field line, and Ryan Braun tied the game with a two-run homer in the fifth.
That was all the Brewers would get off Vazquez (8-7, 2.98 ERA), who earned the win by scattering seven hits in seven innings.
Not only was Friday's win his third straight, but it also was the second successive time the Braves scored more than three runs for Vazquez. Throughout all of June, Atlanta didn't score more than three runs for the right-hander.
Of all that run support, no hit was bigger than Jones' solo homer in the top of the sixth off Brewers reliever Carlos Villanueva (2-7) that broke a 4-4 tie.
"He got a few big at-bats, but that's what he's been doing his whole career," Prado said of Jones' homer. "We expect everything from Chipper. He's a big guy and he's a guy in those moments to step up and make something happen. After that, we felt a lot of confidence and we were able to score a few runs, and that was huge for us."
Nate McLouth extended the lead with a two-run homer in the eighth, and Anderson and Prado, who finished with a career-high four RBIs, drove in the final runs.
"Nate hit the heck out of the ball tonight," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The home run was super. Any time you can add on here with a little bit of a lead, you better try to do it."
The only threat posed by the Brewers after Braun's homer was in the seventh inning, when Jason Kendal led off with a single, was bunted over to second and moved to third on a wild pitch.
But Vazquez buckled down to strike out Milwaukee's power-hitting duo of Braun and Prince Fielder to end the inning.
Vazquez struck out Fielder all four times he came to the plate -- just the second time Fielder has fanned more than three times in his career. The other was on April 3, 2006, his first Major League Opening Day.
"That's a little unusual, but it just goes to show you that if a quality pitcher makes some quality pitches against a quality hitter, he's going to get him out," Jones said. "That was a fluky night for Prince, but I'm glad he had it."
Vazquez said he treated Fiedler like the "great hitter" that he is, and Fielder simply called Vazquez "a good pitcher" who was able to get him.
"No contact. Good swings, though," Fielder said with a smirk. "Line drives to the catcher."
Fielder's "golden sombrero" aside, with the Braves in the thick of the National League Wild Card race and the Brewers also in contention, Jones said the way the Braves won Friday night was the most impressive.
To Jones, the way Atlanta's offense battled back for Vazquez to regain the lead after Milwaukee tied it, as well as the performance of the bullpen -- Peter Moylan and Rafael Soriano each threw a hitless inning -- showed why the Braves are peaking right now.
"That was a game that, for the last three years, we've lost," Jones said. " ... But this is a different team. This is a team that's very good at the end of the bullpen and a team that [Nos.] 1-through-8 [in the lineup] is swinging the bat very well right now."
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.