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BRAUN'S BAT GETS WARMED UP


BRAUN'S BAT GETS WARMED UP
Ryan Braun has never been short on confidence.

When a slow start to the season fueled questions about the right intercostal strain he'd been battling and whether or not the injury would limit the Milwaukee Brewers' star left fielder's effectiveness all year long, Braun wasn't worried.

With his batting average sitting at .200 eight games into the season, Braun said he simply was searching for a rhythm and his timing.

He appears to have found both.

Braun is hitting .552 (16-for-29) in his last eight games, with four home runs and 11 RBIs.

After starting the year 5-for-26, Braun's average is at .351 after Tuesday night's 6-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park, a game in which he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

"It's just a matter of time," said Braun, who has five homers and 16 RBIs on the season. "I think just getting back in a consistent routine and like I said early, just trying to find my timing and rhythm. Overall, I'm seeing the ball well, I've slowed the game down a little bit and I feel great."

Braun, the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year (.324, 34 HR, 97 RBIs) and an All-Star starter last season (.285, 37, 106), played a massive role in the Brewers' recent 5-4 road trip through New York, Philadelphia and Houston.

Braun hit .459 on the trip, smacking his first homer of the season in Milwaukee's first game in New York. He then went deep twice in the Brewers' series opener in Philadelphia in a 5-for-5 performance.

Milwaukee's offense as a whole is starting to come together as well. Like Braun, first baseman Prince Fielder started off slow, but has nine RBIs in the past six games.

"The hitting is starting to come around," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "We went on that road trip and Ryan Braun just absolutely took off."

And if shortstop J.J. Hardy can get going - he's hitting .174 - look out.

"If we get all those guys strung together, swinging the bat good, this is going to be a tough lineup to pitch through," Macha said.

No backing down

Braun's sizzling run continued in Monday night's 10-5 win when he connected for a solo homer in his first at-bat. He was none too pleased, though, after being drilled by a fastball in the upper back his next time up by Pirates starter Jeff Karstens , saying after the game that he believed it was intentional.

"We play them about 17 more times. Tell Mr. Selig that we'll see what happens," Braun said, referring to Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig . "It's going to be interesting."

The situation was the main talking point during Macha's pregame session with reporters Tuesday.

"I encourage my players to always present themselves to the press," Macha said. "Things always have a way of working themselves out. During the heat of the moment, everybody says a lot of stuff."

As a team, the Brewers led the majors with 15 hit batters entering Tuesday's games - a statistic Macha called "a tribute to our hitters."

"If you're trying to intimidate us by throwing inside, that's not happening," he said. "You've got to back hitters off the plate in order to get your part of the plate on the outside corner. That's pitching; that's been going on since this game was invented. So if you're going to try to intimidate somebody, we're not being intimidated."

Interestingly, Brewers starter Dave Bush hit three Pirates Tuesday - including back-to-back hitters with two outs in the fifth. Both scored on a double by catcher Jason Jaramillo , a Racine native.

Kendall OK, relieves Rivera

Brewers catcher Jason Kendall wasn't in the lineup after being hit in the hand by a pitch during a bunt attempt in the eighth inning Monday.

But that was merely because backup Mike Rivera starts when Bush pitches.

Rivera, though, left the game in the bottom of the fourth with a sprained left ankle.

He was injured in the top half of the frame while blocking the plate on the Pirates' third run, and was replaced by Kendall.

Prospect tosses no-no

Brewers prospect Evan Anundsen , a 20-year-old right-hander, threw a no-hitter for Class A Brevard County Tuesday morning in Florida.

Anundsen, a fourth-round pick in 2006, struck out 10 and walked one in the 1-0 win over the Daytona Cubs.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 30, 2009

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