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Brewers strand 3 in 9th, fall to Braves 2-1

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CHARLES ODUM
April 15, 2012
— Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke was confident when the Brewers loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning.

Ultimately, the ending was disappointingly familiar: Too little hitting against tough Atlanta pitching.


Shaun Marcum and Jose Veras combined on a three-hitter but it wasn't enough as Mike Minor pitched two-hit ball into the eighth inning and the Braves survived a ninth-inning scare to beat Milwaukee 2-1 on Saturday night.


Craig Kimbrel pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, striking out pinch-hitter George Kottaras and Mat Gamel for his fourth save.


"I really liked our chances," Roenicke said. "We get the bases loaded with those two lefties coming up, I felt great. I thought we were definitely going to pick up at least one run. (Kimbrel) made some good pitches."


With one out in the ninth, Kimbrel walked Ryan Braun, who moved to second on a single by Aramis Ramirez. Corey Hart walked to load the bases.


Marcum (1-1) gave up three hits and two runs in seven innings. He was hurt by Braun's throwing error from left field in the second.


"It was a fun game," Marcum said. "Anytime they're close like that, a hit here and there can win the game for you. Those are fun games to be a part of."


The Braves have won four straight after losing their first four games. Milwaukee has lost three in a row.


Minor (1-1) recorded 18 consecutive outs after hitting Corey Hart with a pitch to open the second inning. The left-hander did not allow an earned run in 7 1-3 innings, becoming the first Braves starter this season to get an out after the fifth. He struck out four and walked one in the longest start of his career.


"It was a lot of fun just because I got past the fifth inning and helped the team out, helped the bullpen out," Minor said.


Juan Francisco had a run-scoring double in the Braves' two-run second inning.


The Brewers' only run was unearned.


"We didn't square up many balls," Roenicke said.


Jonny Venters replaced Minor, who left with a 2-0 lead after Jonathan Lucroy hit a one-out double in the eighth. Gamel hit a bloop single off the glove of a diving Jason Heyward in right field as Lucroy advanced to third. Cesar Izturis then hit a grounder to Venters, who threw out Lucroy at the plate.


Pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki followed with an infield single to second baseman Dan Uggla, who threw wildly to first base for an error that allowed Gamel to score from second, cutting Atlanta's lead to 2-1. Venters struck out Rickie Weeks to end the inning.


Minor, who was 5-3 in 15 starts as a rookie in 2011, was dominant after giving up six runs in five innings of a 7-5 loss at the New York Mets on Sunday.


Minor was shaky in the first inning when Weeks walked and moved to second on a single by Carlos Gomez. Minor struck out Braun and ended the inning when Ramirez hit into a double play.


Brian McCann led off the second with a walk. With Milwaukee's infield in a shift that placed shortstop Izturis near second base, the left-handed hitting Heyward punched a slow grounder through the left side of the infield. As Braun ran in to grab the ball, McCann hustled toward third and scored when Braun's throw bounced past Ramirez at third base.


Heyward moved to third on Braun's throwing error and scored when Francisco doubled to right-center.


Marcum said the pitch to Francisco was supposed to be down and away but instead found the middle of the plate.


"He did what he was supposed to do with pitches like that, and it cost us a run," Marcum said. "But for the most part, 105 pitches, I did a good job of locating most of them. I'm pretty happy with that."


Francisco started for Chipper Jones, who was held out for the second straight game after having his surgically repaired left knee drained on Friday. Jones said he hopes to start on Sunday.


NOTES: The Braves unveiled their throwback uniforms from the start of their Atlanta era in 1966. They will wear the cream-tinted uniforms for home weekend games. Their caps blue with a red bill and white "A'' have not changed. ... Izturis started for Alex Gonzalez, who was placed on paternity leave as he returned to Florida for the birth of his third child. INF Eric Farris was recalled from Triple-A Nashville. Gonzalez is expected to rejoin the team Tuesday in Milwaukee, following an off day on Monday. ... Minor lasted seven innings against Toronto on June 21, 2011, in his previous longest start.



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