Braun, Hart ignite sizzling Brewers

Chris Narveson needed to beat a top team to restore his confidence after a string of poor outings. The fact that it was the franchise that gave up on him was simply a bonus.

Narveson scattered six hits over eight innings and the Milwaukee Brewers kept rolling at home even after a small fire in the ballpark, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 8-0 on Friday night.

”I think you always need an outing like this,” Narveson said. ”It’s definitely a good feeling to be able to go out there and just go out and get back to base one and get yourself set.”

Narveson (3-4) began his career as a Cardinals draft pick, but he’s being counted on to play an important role in Milwaukee’s rotation as the fifth starter after having no competition in spring training.

”It was huge for me to see it,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. ”When I see things, I see things as I want him to get it going, not so much what the outcome of the game is. I know we’re going to need him.”

Tony La Russa managed his 5,000th game for the Cardinals, but even he saw something new – a fire in a ballpark after smoke billowed in right field from a concession stand’s malfunctioning popcorn machine in the sixth.

”No kidding? I hadn’t seen that one,” La Russa said. ”I wasn’t sure what it was.”

Ryan Braun and Corey Hart homered as Milwaukee improved to 23-9 at home, the best mark in the majors. The Brewers could take first place in the NL Central from the Cardinals with a three-game sweep of this weekend series.

”I think that’s the last thing on anybody’s minds right now, we just want to go out there, play hard, play to win and whatever happens happens,” Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. ”If we play up to our potential we can beat anybody out there.”

The Brewers got off to a solid start by roughing up Kyle Lohse (7-3) and chasing him after five innings. Lohse has lost five straight to Milwaukee and hasn’t won in Miller Park for six years.

Not many other teams have, either.

Milwaukee dropped two of three against the Mets in its previous series, but has not lost consecutive games at home this season even without a big hit by Prince Fielder, who went 0 for 1 with two walks and a hit by pitch.

”I think the big thing is it’s not going to be Prince and Braun every night,” Craig Counsell said. ”Those guys have really carried us offensively this year.”

Narveson was sharp throughout after going 0-1 with a 10.66 ERA in his previous three starts. He only had more than one baserunner in the eighth and he sprinted off the mound after striking out Jon Jay to end the threat.

”I think it’s a good start to the series and a good thing for him personally just being able to go out and get that confidence knowing that he can put away teams like that, of that caliber,” Lucroy said.

Counsell tripled in the third, then slid headfirst around the tag of catcher Yadier Molina on Narveson’s safety squeeze. Nyjer Morgan followed with a sacrifice fly two batters later to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.

Lohse got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, but wouldn’t be so lucky against Braun, who drove a pitch the opposite way for his 14th homer this season in the fifth.

Hart followed with his homer and Rickie Weeks singled in a run off reliever Ryan Franklin as thick, sweet smelling smoke wafted down from the second deck to the first level and field of play. No one was hurt in the fire and a small section of the Miller Park roof on a chilly, 52-degree night was opened to help clear the air.

”You know when you’re around camp fires and there’s almost a burning in your eyes, that’s what it was like,” said Hart, the right fielder. ”It helped us more, though, because we had the lead.”

Notes: Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols singled in the fourth to extend his hitting streak to eight games. … The Cardinals recalled RHP Mitchell Boggs and optioned RHP Lance Lynn to Triple-A Memphis. Lynn made two starts, going 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA. … Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was on the field before the game chatting with La Russa. … Brewers RHP Takashi Saito (oblique) is scheduled to pitch a rehab assignment at Class-A Wisconsin on Sunday.