ATLANTA-- Perhaps batting practice is overrated.
Skipping BP merely to try something different to shake up a slumbering offense, the Milwaukee Brewers broke loose early Wednesday night and cruised to a 6-1 victory over Atlanta at Turner Field to snap a season-long, four-game losing streak.
You know how superstitious ballplayers can be. That means no batting practice before the series finale Thursday night as well, right?
"No BP tomorrow," confirmed Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, whose club got off to a fast start with Mark Reynolds' first-inning grand slam. "They'll like not doing it again."
Thanks to eight strong innings by right-hander Kyle Lohse, the Brewers actually had some breathing room for a change. They had not won a game by more than three runs since whipping Arizona, 8-3, at home on May 5.
"It felt good to have our team play loose and have some fun," said Lohse, who boosted his record to 6-1 with a 2.67 earned run average. "We've been grinding pretty hard lately.
"Sometimes guys put too much pressure on themselves to get the job done. Tonight, with that big four-run first, it kind of loosened the guys up."
Saving their swings for the 7:10 p.m. start time, the Brewers got after Atlanta right-hander Ervin Santana immediately. Carlos Gomez opened the game with a single to left and raced to third on Scooter Gennett's double into the right-field corner.
Ryan Braun popped out, but Jonathan Lucroy drew a walk to load the bases, setting up Reynolds' grand slam. Santana hung a first-pitch slider and Reynolds didn't miss it, driving it out to left for his ninth homer of the season and third career slam.
It was the first time the Brewers scored at least four runs in an inning since a five-run first against Arizona on May 6, a game they lost, 7-5. The slam also helped Reynolds break out of a 1-for-23 drought.
"It seems like every game we've played this year is really close," said Reynolds, who figured Santana would throw a first-pitch strike after walking Lucroy and was ready to swing.
"It felt like we were up 15 runs. It was a good change of pace for us. It wasn't so much good for me as it was for the team. Just to get ahead and put some runs on the board and kind of take the pressure off everybody and let guys not feel like they have to do so much with one swing."
The Brewers' other runs also came on one swing, a two-run homer by Gomez in the fourth off Santana. Lohse took it from there and never let the Braves up for air.
After allowing his only run on consecutive two-out doubles by Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton in the first inning, Lohse became a buzz saw on the mound, chewing through Atlanta's bats. He retired 22 of the last 24 hitters he faced before departing so closer Frankie Rodriguez could get some work, something that hadn't been an issue before the four-game slide.
Lohse threw 16 first-pitch strikes to the first 18 batters and 20 of 28 overall while pounding the zone with 75 of his 103 pitches. He had only two three-ball counts, didn't walk a batter and allowed only four hits with eight strikeouts.
"There was one mistake, really, in that whole game," said Lohse, who has not lost in six career starts at Turner Field. "I was trying to run one in on Upton. I wasn't trying to throw a strike. I have to do a better job than that. After that, I got back into rhythm and kept making pitches.
"We've been having a tough time. Guys are putting their best effort out there, but we haven't been getting runs. To get that big lead early, it changes it a little bit. I'm still out there trying to pitch like it's a 0-0 ball game, but I had some room for error. That's something we haven't had too much lately."
Lohse, who also walked, singled and scored a run, zipped through the bottom half of the innings so quickly that the game lasted only 2 hours 26 minutes. So many of the Brewers' games have been white knucklers, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the visiting dugout to be in control from the outset.
"We needed some runs early," said Roenicke. "It's a struggle to get them early. Guys can relax a little bit. I thought Gomez's home run to add on was huge.
"For Kyle to give us eight (innings) was big. I really thought he threw the ball well. Rhythm is really big for him. He repeated a lot of really good pitches. It was a good game all the way."
(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services