Ryan Braun was already starting to regain his power stroke even before a career night in his home state.
Braun had his first three-homer game and the first in Petco Park history Monday, leading the Brewers to a series-opening 8-3 win. He barely missed a fourth homer in the ninth inning when he hit a two-run triple that took one bounce to reach the wall in right center field, but in doing so he became the first player to hit three homers and a triple in a game since Boston’s Fred Lynn on June 18, 1975.
Braun, who also matched a career high with six RBIs, has six home runs in his past nine games after hitting one in his first 13 contests of 2012. Despite the recent power, he’d been batting only .200 over his previous 12 games before Monday’s historic outburst.
“You know these nights are few and far between,” Braun said. “It’s a moment you try to embrace, you try to enjoy. It’s been a challenge for me and for us this year, and I think we got a couple breaks, a few things really went our way and you hope something like this turns our luck around, turns our momentum around.”
The Southern California native, batting .321 with eight homers in 30 career games against San Diego, will now get the chance to face Volquez (0-2, 3.60 ERA). Braun is batting .368 (7 for 19) with one home run in his career off the right-hander.
Volquez is coming off his best start of the season. He allowed one run and three hits over seven innings Thursday against Washington, but the Padres scored both of their runs in a 2-1 victory after he exited.
Volquez, who has received seven total runs of support in his five outings this season, struck out seven and walked just one after giving out 15 free passes over his first 23 innings.
“That’s going to be the key to his season,” manager Bud Black told the Padres’ official website. “He’s got three pitches that are above average. He’s got velocity. He’s got a devastating change. He’s got a nice curveball.
“If he can limit the walks, that means he limits baserunners, because I don’t think he’s going to get hit around.”
Volquez is 3-2 with a 5.94 ERA in eight career starts against the Brewers (11-12), but went 0-1 with a 7.11 ERA in two matchups last season while with Cincinnati.
Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, whose average dropped to .186 after an 0-for-3 effort Monday, is 6 for 10 with two homers and a double off Volquez.
While Volquez will try to help San Diego (7-17) avoid its third four-game skid of 2012, Shaun Marcum (1-1, 4.13) will attempt to lead Milwaukee to a season high-tying third consecutive win.
The right-hander gave up a season-high four runs over five innings but avoided the loss in a 7-5 defeat to Houston on Wednesday.
Marcum, who hasn’t won since his April 9 season debut, is 2-0 with a 4.85 ERA in two career starts against the Padres. He gave up three runs - two earned - over seven innings in his only previous appearance in San Diego, a 6-3 win for Toronto on June 14, 2010.