|Milwaukee (88-71) «||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||4||5||9||0|
MILWAUKEE -- That slashing swing and those 450-foot drives in batting practice tell Brewers interim manager Dale Sveum that Ryan Braun's ribs can't be bothering him that much.
Braun tells a slightly different story, but the slugger isn't using a lingering injury to his rib cage muscles as an excuse for an extended September slump. And after hitting a 10th-inning grand slam to beat Pittsburgh 5-1 Thursday night and keep the Brewers tied atop the NL wild-card race, he might not need to.
"This is the most frustrating thing I've ever been through as a baseball player," Braun said. "I'd never make an excuse to try to justify my performance but just physically, I've been unable to do what I've been used to doing."
Until the Brewers needed it most.
Milwaukee went into the 10th tied 1-1 and their fellow wild-card contenders, the New York Mets, having already had beaten the Chicago Cubs. The Brewers loaded the bases with two out to bring up Braun, who was 0-for-4 in the game and hitting just above .200 in September.
Braun clobbered a 2-2 pitch from reliever Jesse Chavez (0-1) deep to left field, holding up his bat and hollering at the Brewers' dugout as he began to circle the bases -- celebrating the first grand slam of his career and the Brewers' first grand slam this year as a team.
"There's no better feeling in the world than a walk-off home run -- especially based on the situation that we're in," Braun said.
Sveum attributed Braun's struggles to the pressure of a playoff race more than the injury.
"Sometimes, you've got to realize that a young man like that's never gone through any adversity in his life as an athlete," Sveum said. "That guy hit in little league, he hit in high school, he hit in college, he hit in pro ball, he hit in the big leagues. And then you're thrown into the spot and sometimes, people struggle."
Mitch Stetter (3-1) earned the victory after pitching out of a jam in the 10th.
Despite their slides in September, Braun and the Brewers have three games left against the Chicago Cubs with a playoff spot on the line.
And if they do make it, they might have an unexpected ace up their sleeve: pitcher Yovani Gallardo.
Making his first start since tearing a knee ligament May 1, Gallardo pitched only four innings but made them count. The Brewers' promising 22-year-old right-hander struck out seven while giving up a run and three hits.
"It's great," Gallardo said. "I spent four months watching this team go at it every day. And it hasn't changed. They still go out there, play hard every day, and they're going to find a way to get it done."
Gallardo cruised through the first three innings as Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead on an RBI double by Bill Hall, then appeared to run out of gas in the fourth, giving up a one-out homer to Steve Pearce that tied the game.
"I am sure he did a lot of work to get where he's at," Pearce said. "Kudos to him. Good job. He looked great out there."
Expected to be the Brewers' No. 2 starter behind Ben Sheets this season, Gallardo made only three starts before tearing a ligament in his right knee while trying to hurdle a baserunner against the Cubs on May 1.
Gallardo also had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee just before spring training, but said he didn't have any concerns about returning so quickly.
"They wouldn't be throwing me out there to pitch if everything wasn't the way it's supposed to be," he said.
Gallardo's return trumped a strong outing by Pirates starter Zach Duke, who held the Brewers to a run and seven hits in seven innings.
"He threw the ball really well," Pirates manager John Russell said. "It's a big reason I sent him back out for the extra inning. It was a 1-1 game, and I really was trying to get him a win there."
|Ryan Braun gets a hero's welcome, getting carried off the field after his game-winning grand slam. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Nyjer Morgan, LF||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.294|
|Jason Michaels, PR-LF||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||.225|
|Freddy Sanchez, 2B||5||0||1||0||0||1||3||.266|
|Nate McLouth, CF||5||0||2||0||0||2||3||.281|
|Adam LaRoche, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||1||3||.269|
|Steve Pearce, RF||4||1||1||1||0||2||3||.229|
|Andy LaRoche, 3B||3||0||0||0||1||0||1||.165|
|Ronny Paulino, C||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.214|
|Brian Bixler, SS||2||0||0||0||1||1||0||.157|
|a- Doug Mientkiewicz, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.276|
|Luis Cruz, SS||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.211|
|Zach Duke, P||2||0||1||0||1||1||1||.158|
|Tyler Yates, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|John Grabow, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Jack Wilson, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.273|
|Jesse Chavez, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-lined out for Bixler in the 9th|
|b-grounded out for Grabow in the 10th|
|HR - Steve Pearce (3, Gallardo)|
|RBI - Steve Pearce (14)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|DP - Duke-F. Sanchez, F. Sanchez-LaRoche|
|E - Brian Bixler (8, Throwing), Adam LaRoche (8, Misplayed grounder)|
|Jesse Chavez (L,0-1)||0.2||2||4||4||2||1||1||6.91|
|IBB - Durham by Jesse Chavez|
|Pitches-Strikes - Zach Duke 103-73, Tyler Yates 11-9, John Grabow 10-7, Jesse Chavez 24-11|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Zach Duke 11-7, John Grabow 1-1, Jesse Chavez 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Zach Duke 27, Tyler Yates 3, John Grabow 3, Jesse Chavez 6|
|Mike Cameron, CF||5||1||1||0||0||3||2||.240|
|Bill Hall, 3B||4||0||2||1||0||1||0||.227|
|a- Craig Counsell, PH||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||.227|
|Ryan Braun, LF||5||1||1||4||0||1||2||.286|
|Prince Fielder, 1B||4||0||2||0||0||0||0||.276|
|J.J. Hardy, SS||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.286|
|Corey Hart, RF||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.270|
|Rickie Weeks, 2B||4||1||1||0||0||0||2||.234|
|Jason Kendall, C||3||0||2||0||0||0||0||.250|
|Yovani Gallardo, P||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.111|
|Carlos Villanueva, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.118|
|Eric Gagne, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Joe Dillon, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.216|
|Guillermo Mota, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Brian Shouse, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Salomon Torres, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Todd Coffey, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Mitch Stetter, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|c- Ray Durham, PH||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||.287|
|a-walked for Hall in the 10th|
|b-grounded out for Gagne in the 7th|
|c-was walked intentionally for Stetter in the 10th|
|2B - Bill Hall (22, Duke)|
|HR - Ryan Braun (36, J. Chavez)|
|SH - Jason Kendall (6)|
|RBI - Bill Hall (55), Ryan Braun 4 (104)|
|2-OUT RBI - Bill Hall (22), Ryan Braun 4 (35)|
|CS - Corey Hart (7, 2nd base by Duke/Paulino)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|DP - Hall-Weeks-Fielder, Weeks-Hardy-Fielder, Shouse-Fielder|
|Mitch Stetter (W,3-1)||0.1||0||0||0||0||1||0||3.24|
|Pitches-Strikes - Yovani Gallardo 67-40, Carlos Villanueva 21-16, Eric Gagne 16-8, Guillermo Mota 10-9, Brian Shouse 1-4, Salomon Torres 13-8, Todd Coffey 8-4, Mitch Stetter 6-3|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Yovani Gallardo 1-3, Carlos Villanueva 2-2, Eric Gagne 1-1, Guillermo Mota 1-0, Todd Coffey 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Yovani Gallardo 16, Carlos Villanueva 7, Eric Gagne 4, Guillermo Mota 2, Brian Shouse 2, Salomon Torres 4, Todd Coffey 3, Mitch Stetter 1|
|Attendance - 40102|
|Game Time - 3:06|
|Temperature - 69|
|Umpires - Home - Eric Cooper, First Base - Angel Hernandez, Second Base - Marty Foster, Third Base - Derryl Cousins|