Brewers strike first, eventually end losing skid

MILWAUKEE — All it took for the Milwaukee Brewers to snap their five-game losing streak was an opponent not wearing “St. Louis” across its chest.

Facing one of the American League’s best teams, the Brewers jumped on the Rangers for five runs in the first inning and got good pitching and defense throughout to hold on for a 6-3 victory.

After a tough weekend series against the Cardinals, the Brewers came back from a day off Monday looking to take out their frustrations early, jumping on Rangers rookie right-hander Justin Grimm.

“Always nice to have a good first inning,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “I’ve talked about us throwing up a lot of zeros sometimes when we do that, but I thought we kept the pressure on them and had people on base but didn’t get hits when we needed to. It’s really nice to come out like that, especially when you aren’t scoring runs.”

With a run in and two outs, Carlos Gomez flared a double that was placed perfectly in between Rangers left fielder David Murphy and center fielder Leonys Martin. The ball fell and rolled right between the two outfielders, allowing Ryan Braun to score from first base, as well as Jean Segura from second base.

Yuniesky Betancourt followed with a two-run home run into the Brewers’ bullpen, giving Milwaukee a 5-0 lead.

The homer was Betancourt’s eighth of the season, surpassing Braun for the team lead and tying him for the team lead in RBI with 24.

“Today in batting practice I felt good,” Betancourt said. “I was really hitting the ball, and trying hard for contact is really working for me. I’m focusing now on the strike zone in each at-bat. Whether fastball, breaking ball, wait for a ball on home plate before you swing.”

The regression to the mean has been long expected for Gomez and Betancourt, but they just keep hitting the ball well and producing runs. While Gomez has the potential for a breakout like this, Betancourt was signed less than a week before the season started after he was released by Philadelphia.

Betancourt had just seven home runs in 228 plate appearances with Kansas City last season and  has hit over 10 home runs just twice in his career.

“I don’t know for the season, but I already have eight homers,” Betancourt said when asked if he can get to his career-high of 16 home runs. “I feel great. I feel healthy. I’ll try.”

After the big first inning, the Brewers scored just once more on an Aramis Ramirez solo home run in the seventh inning. An inconsistent offense has come back to bite the Brewers a few times this season, but Wily Peralta and the bullpen held one of the best offenses in baseball in check.

The only blemish on Peralta’s night through four innings was  a solo home run to Mitch Moreland in the second inning. The rookie right-hander ran into trouble in a 35-pitch sixth inning, but worked out of trouble with just one earned run allowed.

“I had pretty good command today overall,” Peralta said. “That was my goal. Try and keep the ball down and make a good pitch.”

After allowing six runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last outing, Peralta looked like the guy the Brewers saw at the end of last season.

“I see flashes of it and I have in some of the other games,” Roenicke said. “But consistently going through six innings, I thought he maintained his stuff. I thought he lost it a little bit but regained (it). I think for him, this should be a great outing to move forward and get locked in like we know he can.

“Great sinker today, great fastball today. He threw some good change-ups and got some outs on it. Threw a couple of good sliders. It was a great game for him. This is a very good lineup to go through. I really thought he made some great pitches when he needed to.”

All in all, Tuesday was a good night for a team desperately needing a strong showing. Though the offense clicked for just one inning, Peralta’s performance was encouraging and the bullpen got through three innings with no hiccups.

“When the starter pounds the ball like they are supposed to, like Wily did today, we have a better chance to win games because we have a good lineup,” Gomez said. “We have a lot of speed and power. The bottom of the lineup is doing a good job. We have to continue to play ball right and we are going to win a lot of games.

“It’s a good start to get the energy back to the team. We’ll come back tomorrow with more motivation.”

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