Roughly an hour before Jonathan Lucroy officially turned 28 years old, the Brewers catcher provided himself and his teammates with a bit of an early present.
Lucroy’s two-run home run in the top of the 13th inning broke a 1-1 tie and was the decisive blow in Milwaukee’s 5-1 victory over the New York Mets on Thursday night at Citi Field.
The Brewers improved to 5-1 in extra inning games on the road with the win and also moved to 13 games over .500 at 40-21, matching a season high. In long extra-inning games like the one the Brewers and Mets played Thursday, a win feels much bigger and a loss is a lot harder to take.
"It’s a real good one to win," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We got great pitching today. It took a long time to get some offense, but we had great pitching today. Kyle (Lohse) was outstanding. I probably could have left him out for another inning, but he did a great job. He was locked in from the get-go and making pitches."
With Kyle Lohse and Mets starter Jonathan Niese both having their best stuff Thursday, runs were at a premium. The Brewers scored their first run of the night on an Aramis Ramirez solo homer in the second inning, while the Mets used a rare Carlos Gomez error to score an unearned run to tie the game in the fourth.
After eight innings of nothing but zeros — including Brandon Kintzler working out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the 11th — Ryan Braun led off the 13th inning with an infield single. Lucroy sat back on an 0-1 curveball from Mets reliever Carlos Torres and kept it fair down the left-field line for his fifth home run of the season.
"I’m glad I got one on the barrel that I could get out of here," Lucroy, who turns 28 on Friday, said. "I’m glad to help us win and get us out of here, man."
The game-winning home run capped quite the road trip for Lucroy, as he hit .412 with two home runs, four doubles and six RBI in eight games.
"He’s really swinging the bat well," Roenicke said. "He’s a great hitter. Being able to use all of the field with power, that was big."
Coming off his worst start in a Brewers uniform, Lohse was fantastic yet again. The right-hander allowed just four hits while not walking a batter over eight innings. Lohse has sandwiched two outings in which he hasn’t allowed an earned run in 17 combined innings around last Friday’s five-inning, eight-earned-run performance in Pittsburgh.
"You can’t really say anything about Kyle," Lucroy said. "He was unbelievable tonight. He made some big pitches when he had to and he was just spot on. He was hitting spots, he was down in the zone, he was efficient — it was awesome."
The Brewers entered Thursday’s game without a home run in five straight games for the first time since May 4-8 of 2011. Milwaukee hadn’t gone six consecutive games without a homer since September of 2002, but Ramirez prevented that from happening with his solo blast in the second.
But that was all the Brewers could manage against Niese, as the left-hander struck out eight and scattered six hits over 7 2/3 innings.
"I really like him," Roenicke said of Niese. "I get why he puts up the numbers he does. He really knows how to pitch."
Thursday’s win left the Brewers with a 5-3 record on the eight-day trip that took them to Minnesota, Pittsburgh and New York. A short three-game homestand against the Cincinnati Reds awaits this weekend before a seven-game trip out west to Arizona and Colorado.
"Any time you can get some momentum going into the homestand — even though it is only three games — it is important," Lucroy said. "With the Reds coming to town it is going to be a challenge, so we need to be ready for it."