MLB

Braun hits NL-leading 34th homer; Brewers beat Cubs

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Associated Press
8/22/2012 5:51:13 PM
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MILWAUKEE -- John Axford recently went to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and told him he wanted his job back as Milwaukee's closer.

And while neither man was willing to share the details of that conversation, the results so far speak for themselves: Axford nailed down a save for the second day in a row and the Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs 3-2 on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep.

"He came in and talked to me," Roenicke said. "I don't want to say what went on. But he's in a place where he should be."

Ryan Braun hit his NL-leading 34th home run of the season, Yovani Gallardo pitched seven strong innings and Axford pitched a scoreless ninth despite allowing a two-out single.

Demoted after a string of poor performances earlier in the season, Axford was happy to be back where he still thinks he belongs.

"I think maybe just the reaffirming conversation that Ron and I had earlier, about a week ago, maybe that's exactly what I needed -- something myself, to say, 'This is me and this is what I want to do and I should be there,"' Axford said.

Gallardo (13-8) gave up two runs and four hits, with nine strikeouts and two walks.

It was another impressive outing in what has been an emotional week for Gallardo, who recently returned home to deal with an illness in the family.

"Even though all the things that have happened to him lately emotionally, he looked good before the game," Roenicke said. "He looked good yesterday. So we felt pretty good with him going into the game. And after the first batter, really good."

Gallardo said after Wednesday's game that his mother was ill, but is back home and getting better.

"It's not easy for anybody," Gallardo said. "It's obviously still in the back of your mind. But like I've said, you've just got to be tough. You've got to be tough and find a way to get the job done."

Braun hit a solo shot deep to right-centre field in the sixth and had an RBI double in the first. With Wednesday's homer, Braun has surpassed the 33 he hit during his 2011 NL MVP season.

Although the Brewers' overall season has been a disappointment, they've been hot at home, going 9-1-2 in their last 12 series at Miller Park.

Roenicke isn't fixated on trying to figure out why the team is playing so much worse on the road.

"I want to just worry about playing good ball, and where it ends up, it ends up," Roenicke said.

David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair homered for Chicago.

Cubs starter Travis Wood (4-10) took the loss but pitched fairly well, giving up three runs and six hits in seven innings with a walk and six strikeouts. Wood, in his second stint with the big-league club this year, was making his 18th start of the season.

"He did a good job," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Like I've said before, that's a tough middle of that lineup to get through."

Brewers players began Wednesday by saying goodbye to veteran left-hander Randy Wolf, who was released by the team on his 36th birthday.

Wolf was 3-10 with a 5.69 ERA, and said he didn't blame the club for making the move.

"It's certainly unfortunate that this year was the way it was, and there's nobody more disappointed about that than I am," Wolf said.

Both general manager Doug Melvin and Roenicke said they expected Wolf to find a job somewhere else -- perhaps even this season.

DeJesus led off by pounding a 3-1 pitch from Gallardo over the wall in centre. It was his sixth home run of the season, and four of those have come in his last eight games.

DeJesus then appeared to hurt his left hand in a collision with centre fielder Brett Jackson while making a sliding attempt at a catch in the bottom half of the inning, but stayed in the game. Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki ended up with a double after DeJesus and Jackson couldn't make the catch.

After a strikeout by Rickie Weeks, Braun doubled over the head of LaHair -- who appeared to lose track of the ball as it came off the bat -- and Aoki scored to tie the game. Braun later scored on a broken-bat bloop double by Corey Hart, giving the Brewers a 2-1 lead.

After Braun homered in the sixth, LaHair hit his 15th of the season in the seventh to cut the lead to 3-2.

The Brewers blew a chance to pad their lead in the seventh, when Carlos Gomez tried to score on a ball that got away from catcher Steve Clevenger but was thrown out easily.

Notes: Milwaukee recalled INF Jeff Bianchi from Triple-A Nashville but he is not expected to available to play before Saturday. ... Brewers starter Shaun Marcum is expected to return from a rehabilitation stint and start Saturday's game at Pittsburgh. ... Brewers SS Jean Segura sat out with a sore foot. ... It was the 12th career leadoff home run for DeJesus.

Ryan Braun Corey Hart (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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