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Brewers 8, Braves 2

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MILWAUKEE (AP)

Left for dead in the playoff race a month ago, the Milwaukee Brewers inched closer to a wild card spot after sweeping the Atlanta Braves, a scenario that had backup first baseman Travis Ishikawa searching to explain the team's recent surge.

Ishikawa, subbing for the injured Corey Hart, blasted a bases-clearing double in Milwaukee's eight-run fifth inning, coming after a three-run home run by Rickie Weeks earlier in the frame, and the Brewers beat the Braves 8-2 Wednesday night.

''I felt like we had dug a hole pretty deep that we weren't going to be able to get out of,'' Ishikawa said. ''That just shows you the character of this team. As far out as we've been and as bad as we played earlier this year, we just found a way to play the ball we knew we were capable of playing. We've got a little ways to go, but it's definitely going to be a fun few weeks.''

The victory was the Brewers' ninth in a row at Miller Park and 18th in the past 23 games overall. Milwaukee (72-71) climbed above .500 for the first time since it was 4-3 on April 12.

The Brewers moved within three games of St. Louis for the second NL wild card. Despite the loss, the Braves continue to have a strong hold on the top wild card position.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo also connected for a run-scoring double in the game-turning inning, during which the Brewers sent 13 batters to the plate while collecting eight hits and two walks. Milwaukee trailed 2-0 entering the frame.

Gallardo (15-8) pitched seven strong innings in his majors-leading 24th quality start of the season. He gave up two runs on only four hits while walking three and striking out six.

Relievers Jose Veras and Kameron Loe combined to shut out the Braves over the final two innings.

''It's pretty exciting in here right now, for all of us,'' Gallardo said. ''We've just got to keep it up. That's a tough team on the other side and being able to win all three games is huge.''

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke credited Gallardo for overcoming early control issues.

''At the beginning the command was a little off. Then he gets it going again and starts getting in a rhythm,'' Roenicke said. ''He threw some great curveballs today.''

Atlanta starter Paul Maholm (12-10) held the Brewers scoreless through four innings before running into major trouble in the fifth.

Maholm gave up nine hits, eight runs - six earned - in 4 1-3 innings. He walked two batters and struck out a pair. Maholm entered the game 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in two prior starts against the Brewers this season.

''I can't say I like this place. I'm kind of glad to be out of here and not coming back this year. They've got a good lineup. Obviously, they know me and I know them,'' Maholm said.

Roenicke struggled to explain the Brewers' success this season against Maholm.

''We didn't do much until that (fifth) inning. Why we didn't do anything and all of a sudden we bust out, I don't really know,'' he said.

Weeks connected for his 18th home run of the season to spark the fifth-inning outburst, giving the Brewers a 3-2 lead. Weeks, who began the season in a horrendous slump, has been on an torrid streak at the plate.

''He's been good for a long time now and this stretch has been really good and at a time when we really need him,'' Roenicke said.

Following Weeks' blast, Milwaukee added five more runs in the inning, three on a double by Ishikawa.

''Corey's been doing a tremendous job over there. He's definitely a guy you can't replace,'' Ishikawa said. ''I'm doing everything I can in my own capabilities to hold my own over there and just pray that he gets back healthy and quickly.''

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez thought the Braves were poised for a victory after the team jumped out to a quick 2-0.

''Early in the game, we made some great defensive plays. Guys were bouncing everywhere and got a couple of quick runs and I thought, `OK, here we go,''' Gonzalez said. ''But it's hard to win ball games when we score three runs in three games and we give up a bunch.''

The Brewers are having success in all phases of the game, which has allowed the team to climb into the playoff hunt, he added.

''In the second half of the season, they're one of the hottest teams in the National League. They're playing good, they're pitching good, putting the ball in play when they have to,'' Gonzalez said.

Jason Heyward got the Braves on the board in the first inning when he hit a two-out, solo home run. The Braves added a run in the fourth.

NOTES: Brewers CF Carlos Gomez left the game in the second inning with a lower quad contusion. He's day-to-day, according to team officials. .The Brewers presented Chipper Jones with a Weber gas grill and a year's supply of Klement's sausages in an on-field ceremony prior to the game to mark the retirement of the Braves' third baseman. Jones, who played his 42nd and final game against the Brewers on Wednesday, announced earlier this year his plan to retire at the end of his 18th full season in the majors, all of them with Atlanta. Jones got a loud standing ovation and tipped his cap to the crowd in his final at-bat in the ninth inning. ... Brewers 1B Hart took batting practice but sat out Wednesday's game as he continues to struggle with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Team officials said Hart, who hasn't played since Sunday, is questionable for the team's next game on Friday at home.

Tagged: Brewers, Braves, Chipper Jones, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Paul Maholm, Travis Ishikawa, Yovani Gallardo

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