Jeff Bennett hurts former team’s chances, leads Braves past Brewers 3-1
ATLANTA (AP)—For Jeff Bennett, it was nothing personal. He just wanted to help his new team’s playoff chances.
Milwaukee, trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1982, slipped to 1 1/2 games behind the NL Central-leading Cubs, who were idle. The Brewers have nine games left, one fewer than Chicago.
The Braves also have nine games left, and they closed to 4 1/2 games of the East lead when the New York Mets lost to the Florida 8-7 in 10 innings. Several players and coaches hung around the clubhouse to cheer on the Marlins.
“We still have a chance to make the playoffs. This was real important,” Bennett said. “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.”
The Braves have won five in a row, equaling their season high.
Bennett’s lone season in the majors was 2004, when he went 1-5 with a 4.79 ERA for the Brewers. He had been in the minors ever since, spending part of the time recovering from major elbow surgery.
The 27-year-old right-hander was called up Wednesday from Triple-A Richmond to make a start for Atlanta’s thin rotation—against Milwaukee, no less.
“This was not a revenge-type thing,” he said. “I was just looking over there and seeing a lot of friends on that team. It was just a lot of fun, more than anything.”
Bennett struck out the side in the first, including Prince Fielder and Corey Hard with two runners aboard. He finished with eight strikeouts, fooling the Brewers with a new style since his surgery.
“I’m not throwing as hard as I was when I was with them,” Bennett said. “I’m moving it around and changing speeds. I’m sure that threw them off a little bit.”
Atlanta’s Edgar Renteria, third in the batting race, was hitless in three at-bats and dropped to .336.
Rickie Weeks homered for Milwaukee, which has gone deep 216 times this season. That ties the franchise record set by the 1982 team known as “Harvey’s Wallbangers,” which lost to St. Louis in the World Series.
But that was it off Bennett, who lasted until the sixth. After giving up a walk and a single, he was replaced by Manny Acosta and walked off the mound to a standing ovation. He felt like he belonged.
“You’re not going to rattle him,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “You could tell in his eyes. He wanted the ball. He knows he’s got the stuff to pitcher here and stay here.”
Acosta struck out Geoff Jenkins to end the sixth. Rafael Soriano, who was handed a four-game suspension earlier in the day for plunking Florida’s Dan Uggla on Monday, pitched a perfect ninth for his eighth save.
Soriano appealed the suspension and will be allowed to pitch until Major League Baseball hears his case. In the meantime, he helped put a dent in Milwaukee’s playoff hopes.
“We have to win games from here on out,” Weeks said. “We could rattle off 10 in a row, but we would still need help here and there.”
McCann put Atlanta ahead with an RBI single in the first, the Braves catching a break when right fielder Joe Dillon stumbled and fell going after a routine fly. Atlanta extended its lead on Jones’ two-run, bases-loaded single off Jeff Suppan (10-12) in the second.
“Having the bases loaded with Chipper up was a difficult situation,” Suppan said. “I tried to make the best pitch possible. Honestly, I don’t know what the pitch was. He’s a very, very good hitter. That was the game.”
Suppan lasted six innings, giving up seven hits, walking two and striking out six while losing for the first time since Aug. 22. He had gone 2-0 with a pair of no-decisions in his previous four starts.
Jones also had singles in the first and fifth before grounding out sharply to the pitcher in the eighth. The fifth-inning single was questionable, a grounder to second that was bobbled by Weeks but ruled a hit by the official scorer.
Renteria lined out to second, struck out and hit into a double play. … Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets was diagnosed with a mild hamstring strain and is questionable for his next scheduled start on Sunday. … Suppan dropped to 3-8 with a 5.38 on the road, but he did have his best outing ever against the Braves. He had given up 14 runs in 13 2-3 innings vs. Atlanta, an ERA of 9.22. … The Braves have two other five-game winning streaks this season.