MILWAUKEE — In years past, Ryan Braun probably doesn’t even get a chance to be the hero with runners at second and third with two outs in the ninth inning of a tie game.
But with the way Braun has scuffled in June and the red-hot Jonathan Lucroy hitting behind him, the Colorado Rockies went right after Milwaukee’s right fielder with the game on the line Friday night.
Braun sent the first pitch he saw from Rockies reliever Matt Belisle into center field, scoring Mark Reynolds with the winning run in the Brewers’ 3-2 victory over the Rockies in front of 34,132 at Miller Park.
"Typically, there’s probably a chance they would pitch around me," Braun said. "But I’ve been swinging so terribly, and Luc’s been swinging so great, that the combination would probably entice them to at least come at me a little bit."
Even though Rockies manager Walt Weiss opted to not intentionally walk him with the base open, Braun wasn’t sure if Belisle was going to give him a pitch to hit. Weiss went to the mound right before Braun delivered the sixth walk-off hit of his career and his first since 2011.
"I saw where he was setting up off the plate, so I don’t think they were trying to throw it where he ended up throwing it," Braun said. "But as a hitter, you always have to be aggressive. I don’t think you ever want to get into a defensive mode in that situation and think that they’re not going to pitch to you. So you have to be prepared and ready to hit."
Braun played a direct role in all three of Milwaukee’s runs, including getting hit by an Adam Ottavino pitch to force in the go-ahead run with two outs in the seventh inning. In the sixth, Braun battled after falling behind 0-2 in the count to hit a groundball to second base to move Rickie Weeks up to third with one out.
Weeks would score on an RBI single by Lucroy, putting the Brewers up 1-0. Colorado answered with its lone run against Kyle Lohse in the top of the seventh, as pinch-hitter Brandon Barnes executed a safety squeeze bunt to score Josh Rutledge from third.
Lohse fielded the bunt and hesitated, thinking about going home with the ball. He then had to react and tagged Rutledge as he was running by to get the second out of the inning.
"When I picked up the runner, he was too far down the line," Lohse said. "When I turned around, the runner was right there. It wasn’t like I planned it or anything like that, I just happened to run right into him. I kind of jammed my arm — it felt like I punched him with my elbow — I wasn’t ready for that. It worked out. it was a tough play but we got an out, out of it."
Lohse responded by striking out Charlie Blackmon with the go-ahead run on third base, ending his night with just one run allowed on seven hits over seven innings.
The Rockies had their leadoff hitter on in five of the seven innings against Lohse but went just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position in the first six innings of the game.
"It wasn’t pretty," Lohse said. "When I’m out there and my two best pitches, my fastball and slider, aren’t working and I’m not able to locate them, you’re going to end up with a tough outing you kind of have to grind through and that’s what we did. A lot of changeups and a lot of curveballs.
"We were just able to use the fastball enough to get some outs with it. You have to figure out a way to get through it when you don’t have your best stuff."
The Brewers were in need of a run in the bottom of the ninth inning after Rutledge homered off closer Francisco Rodriguez to tie the game at 2. It was Rodriguez’s third blown save of the season, as Lohse has been in line for the win for two of the three.
Lohse has been the victim of five blown saves on the year, as he could have more than the nine wins he currently sits with.
"Frankie continues to make good pitches," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He got a changeup up a little bit. That guy has hit some balls pretty hard off us. I think he’s throwing the ball good. I really liked his fastball today. He threw some good breaking balls and some good changeups."
A day after reaching the halfway point with the best record in franchise history, the Brewers became the first team in Major League Baseball to hit the 50-win mark this season.
"It’s a cool number," Braun said. "It’s definitely a step in the right direction. It’s nice to be the first one to 50 wins, for sure. There’s still a lot of baseball left, a long ways to go. We’re excited with the way that we’ve played so far, but there’s still a lot of baseball left."
Maybe more important than the 50 wins is the fact the Brewers will lead the division by no less than 5 1/2 games entering Saturday.
"When you are in front you know you have a lot of people trying to catch you," Roenicke said. "I think the guys don’t worry about where we are and just keep staying after it and being aggressive. I think this team will continue to play well."