The Braves try to draw closer in the National League East again as they continue a four-game series with the Brewers on Friday at Turner Field.
Atlanta (80-73) moved within 4 1/2 games of the slumping New York Mets for the East lead following its 3-1 victory Thursday. Jeff Bennett turned the tables on his former team, giving up just one run in 5 2-3 innings and striking out eight.
“We still have a chance to make the playoffs. This was real important,” said Bennett, who pitched for the Brewers in 2004. “I’ve been on several teams in the minors that put on a run at the end of the season and did well. With as much pop as we have in our lineup, you can’t count us out.”
Chipper Jones had three hits - including a key two-run single in the second inning - and took over the NL batting lead with a .342 average, three points better than Colorado’s Matt Holliday. Jones is 15-for-27 (.556) with nine RBIs in his last seven games, with at least two hits in six of them.
Tim Hudson (16-8, 3.33 ERA), enjoying his best season since winning 18 games for Oakland in 2001, will try to lead the Braves to a season-high sixth straight victory. He is trying to follow up a seven-hitter he threw Sunday at Washington, as he struck out six in a 3-0 victory.
“It is great to see the bullpen guys come in (after the game) and see a big smile on their face and know they had the day off. It was nice to go out there and do it,” said Hudson, who notched his 10th career shutout and 21st complete game.
The right-hander has struggled in his last two starts at home, though, giving up nine runs and 17 hits - including three homers - in just 11 innings while losing one of them. Hudson is 8-5 with a 3.58 ERA in 16 starts at Turner Field on the season, giving up six homers in 103 innings.
He improved to 2-1 lifetime against the Brewers on May 30, when he limited them to two runs in seven innings before the Braves rallied with a seven-run eighth en route to a 9-3 victory.
A win by the Braves would ensure their 16th non-losing season in the last 17 years.
Milwaukee (78-74) dropped 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central with 10 to play after losing its second straight contest. Rickie Weeks accounted for the offense with a homer, a franchise record-tying 216th for the Brewers in 2007.
The previous franchise record for home runs was established by the 1982 “Harvey Wallbanger’s” Brewers squad that won the AL pennant and reached the World Series.
“We have to win games from here on out,” said Weeks, who homered for the third straight game. “We could rattle off 10 in a row, but we would still need help here and there.”
The Brewers hope Carlos Villanueva (8-4, 4.11) can continue to be effective since rejoining the rotation at the start of September, as he’s gone 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts. He stifled the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, scattering six hits and three walks in seven shutout innings of a 5-2 victory.
“Command of his fastball wasn’t great, but his off-speed stuff was really good and got him big outs when he needed them,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said.
The 23-year-old right-hander made a relief appearance versus Atlanta on May 29, giving up one run and two hits while retiring just one batter.