Brewers 6, Pirates 2
MILWAUKEE (AP)—A shortened swing produced one very long ball for Russell Branyan.
Milwaukee’s third baseman homered twice off Kip Wells in the Brewers’ 6-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in their home opener Monday in front of a sellout crowd that included new owner Mark Attanasio.
His first shot smashed into the giant center field scoreboard an estimated 465 feet from home plate.
“That’s about as far as it can go,” teammate Lyle Overbay marveled. “I don’t think they estimated that very well. It’s got to be at least 500.”
Branyan has had his share of monster shots in his career, but he ranked this one at the top.
“It’s just a really sweet feeling, and I guess that’s where they come up with the name ‘sweet spot’ on the bat,” he said. “I can’t explain any other better moment in the game than making contact like that and seeing the ball fly.”
As Wells watched the ball bang off the board, he was caught on camera saying simply, “Wow!”
“I couldn’t locate my fastball inside to him. So, I threw away and soft and he hit it a mile,” Wells said.
Branyan, who added a 399-foot homer in the fourth, beat out Wes Helms for the starting job in spring training, in part because his shortened swing led to great results at the plate.
And it’s carried over—he’s hitting .381.
“Last year his swing was a little long. He had tremendous power with it. But this year, he’s shortened it up and kept his power, and this year he’s putting more balls in play,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said.
Doug Davis (2-0) beat Wells for the second time in a week, scattering seven hits and allowing two runs in seven innings. He walked four and struck out seven.
Wells (0-2), who allowed two homers to Milwaukee last week, gave up five earned runs on seven hits, including three home runs, in 7 1-3 innings. Wells has won just twice in his last 18 starts, dating to May 23.
“I certainly know one hitter had his number,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Two home runs and four RBIs. The rest of the lineup, I thought he pitched pretty good. He made a couple of bad pitches, let’s leave it at that.”
Branyan’s first shot gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead in the second. After the Pirates tied it with two runs in the fourth, Branyan restored Milwaukee’s two-run lead in the bottom half when he connected for the second time off Wells, again on an off-speed pitch.
“He’s got a lot of pop,” Davis said of his teammate. “Russell with the Muscle, we call him.”
Branyan had a chance for an even bigger day when he worked the count full with two men on base in the seventh before Wells got him to chase a high fastball for a strikeout.
“I got a little antsy, maybe wanting to give the crowd a little bit more and chased something up in the zone,” Branyan said. “I’ve got to take the walk. And believe me, I learned from that at-bat.”
The Brewers made it 5-2 on Brady Clark’s first homer of the season leading off the fifth.
Davis, who gave up two runs in six innings in the season opener at Pittsburgh, didn’t allow a hit until Tike Redman’s RBI triple with nobody out in the fourth. Ty Wigginton’s bloop single to right field tied it at 2.
Matt Wise pitched the eighth and Mike Adams the ninth, but he didn’t get the save because Pittsburgh second baseman Freddy Sanchez dropped J.J. Hardy’s popup with two outs in the eighth, allowing Carlos Lee to score and turn a three-run lead into a four-run cushion.
Attanasio, who purchased the Brewers from the Selig family in the offseason for $223 million, watched his father, Joe, sing the National Anthem, then settled in to watch the “Russell Branyan Show” from the front row next to the Brewers’ dugout.
In his last 10 plate appearances against Wells, Branyan has three doubles, two homers and four walks.
Branyan has 10 career multihomer games. He owns the longest homer in Miller Park history, a 480-foot shot last July 27 in his debut for Milwaukee. … Attanasio said he won’t be is a meddling owner: “Judging from my performances in rotisserie leagues, I’m going to leave that to (general manager) Doug Melvin.”