MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell finally got a chance to break out the superlatives.
Junior Guerra allowed two hits over eight innings, Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer and a two-run double and Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a two-run shot to carry the Brewers to a 7-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night, spoiling the major league debut of Brock Stewart.
"That was our best start of the year and certainly (Guerra’s) best game of the year," Counsell said. "As the game went on he seemed to get better and better."
Braun’s two-run homer off Chris Hatcher in the seventh inning gave Guerra some extra cushion, but the 31-year-old rookie right-hander didn’t need it.
"I am pretty sure that was my best start in the big leagues," Guerra said of his 11th career start. "Thankfully, I was able to locate pitches, throw strikes and help the team win."
Guerra (5-1) allowed Corey Seager’s double in the first and Yasiel Puig’s single in the fifth. After he walked Adrian Gonzalez in the first, Guerra retired 21 of the next 23 batters, striking out seven.
"He had everything working, and he just kept getting better, really," Counsell said.
Guerra received a no-decision at Dodger Stadium on June 16 in his previous start against the Dodgers. He allowed five runs and five hits over 5 1/3 innings then.
"In L.A., I was trying to be too perfect," Guerra said. "Obviously, nothing is perfect. Once we got back here I was trying to get ahead of hitters and throw strikes."
That he did, and so did Stewart after the tough second inning.
Los Angeles selected Stewart’s contract before the game, making him the ninth pitcher to start for the Dodgers this season and fourth to make his major league debut. He is the first Dodger to begin in Class-A and start a major league game in the same season since Hideo Nomo in 1995.
Stewart (0-1) retired the side in order in the first, but the Brewers scored five times on six hits in the second, highlighted by Nieuwenhuis’ two-run homer and Braun’s two-run double. After intentionally walking Jonathan Lucroy to load the bases with two outs, Stewart struck out Chris Carter to end the inning.
"That was definitely fun that first inning," Stewart said. "(It) changed a little bit after that."
The 24-year-old right-hander regrouped and held the Brewers scoreless for the next three innings. He struck out seven and walked two, throwing 95 pitches.
"I kind of let it get to me, and left some balls up," Stewart said. "They don’t miss them here, apparently. Tough inning, but, you know what, I was glad I was able to settle down after that."
Stewart last pitched June 24 in the Pacific Coast League when he beat Triple-A Round Rock 8-2, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings. He struck 10 and walked one.
Puig clanged into the wall trying to track Braun’s home run in the seventh. Hobbling a bit, Puig stayed in the game until running out a grounder to short in the top of the eighth. He came out after that. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Puig would be in the lineup for the finale of the three-game series.
GUERRA TO THE RESCUE
Guerra has become a surprise workhorse for the Brewers. Milwaukee claimed him off waivers from the Chicago White Sox in October. Atlanta and the New York Mets had him in their systems. He spent several years in unaffiliated baseball, including stints in Mexico, Italy, Venezuela and with Wichita of the independent American Association. He also received a 50-game suspension from MLB on Jan. 16, 2008 for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Gonzalez was ejected in the fourth after striking out. Walking back to the dugout, he flicked his wrist and apparently said something to third base umpire Dan Bellino who tossed him out of the game. Gonzalez was upset with Bellino for calling a strike on a checked swing one pitch earlier. It was Gonzalez’s fifth career ejection in 1,724 games.
"I didn’t say it," Gonzalez said of the checked swing that was called a strike. "I gestured it. I didn’t say a word. That’s the first time in my career that I’ve ever been tossed without saying a word and walking back to the dugout. I don’t know where the basis of tossing somebody is there."
SAVE THAT BALL
After Stewart struck out the Brewers leadoff batter Jonathan Villar, catcher A.J. Ellis rolled the ball into the Dodgers’ dugout where it was safely stowed away.
Dodgers CF Joc Pederson, who crashed into the center field wall Tuesday night, did not play. "He’s better than he was yesterday," Roberts said. "It’s going to be a two, three-day thing and at that point in time, we’ll make a decision (on a move to the disabled list)."
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (11-2, 1.79 ERA) is back in Los Angeles and headed for scans on his sore back. Roberts remained cautiously hopeful that the three-time NL Cy Young winner could make his next scheduled start Friday night at Dodger Stadium against Colorado.
Dodgers: The Dodgers placed INF/OF Kike Hernandez on the 15-day DL with left rib cage inflammation retroactive to June 28 to make room for Stewart. … LHP Alex Wood (left posterior elbow soreness) was transferred to the 60-day DL.
Brewers: Counsell said RF Domingo Santana, who is on the 15-day DL with right elbow soreness, would not play before the All-Star Break. "You’ve got to get pain-free before he can move to the next step," Counsell said.
Dodgers: RHP Kenta Maeda (6-5, 2.91) is 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA in seven road starts this season. He took a no-decision facing the Brewers June 19 at Dodger Stadium, allowing one run and six hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out eight and walked three in the 2-1 win.
Brewers: RHP Zach Davies (5-3, 3.74) received a no-decision in his only start against the Dodgers June 17 at Dodger Stadium. He allowed one run and five hits in seven innings and left the game with a 2-1 lead, but the Brewers lost 3-2 in 10 innings.