MIAMI – The Marlins bullpen was struggling until manager Ozzie Guillen called on A.J. Ramos to face Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, and Aramis Ramirez in his major league debut.
So what did the 25-year-old right-hander do? He struck them all out.
Ramos pitched an impressive ninth inning for the Marlins but it was too late. They were well on their way to an 8-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.
"I didn't even know it was his debut," Marlins catcher Rob Brantly said. "I thought he came up a few weeks before the way he handled himself. He came in there confident and just pounded the zone."
It was the first time a Marlins pitcher has struck out the side in the first inning of his major league debut. Ramos went 3-3 with a 1.44 ERA and 21 saves for Double-A Jacksonville.
"Very impressed," Guillen said. "The first time in the big leagues he pitches to the heart of the lineup and, not just because he struck out the guys, but the way he threw the ball, with a lot of confidence. He wasn't afraid."
Four other Marlins relievers combined to pitch two innings and allowed five runs in relief of Wade LeBlanc. Mike Dunn (0-2) took the loss, facing one batter and throwing two pitches.
"The bullpen struggled this week," Guillen said. "It's hard to keep the lead and they didn't do the job. The good thing about the bullpen today was the kid (Ramos)."
Norichika Aoki hit a two-run home run and an RBI double to establish a career-high with three RBIs for the Brewers
"He really was good today," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Even the last ball they got to him in left-center, he hammered it. This is a big ball park and he goes deep to right-center and then hits a ball to the warning track in left-center. He hammered balls today."
Aoki, who hit his seventh homer, is batting .419 (13 for 31) during an eight-game hitting streak.
"Today is today, tomorrow is another day," Aoki said through a translator. "It's good to be on a hot stretch right now, but I just have to take it day by day."
Jeff Bianchi also provided the Brewers with an unlikely power source as he hit a three-run home run off Chad Guadin in the eighth inning to give the Brewers an 8-4 lead.
"He left a mistake out over the middle of the plate," Bianchi said. "I think he was trying to go down and away, and I think he just pulled it across the middle of the plate a little bit. I was able to capitalize on it."
"The three he's hit, he's really crushed," Roenicke said.
Braun drove in Milwaukee's other two runs to give him 98 RBIs, which leads the National League. The reigning NL MVP is looking for his fifth straight season with 100 RBIs.
The Brewers' Kameron Loe (6-4) and faced one batter and threw just two pitches.
"The bullpen struggled this week," Guillen said. "It's hard to keep the lead and they didn't do the job."
John Axford got one out for his 24th save.
Giancarlo Stanton hit his 30th home run and Gorkys Hernandez hit his first career long ball for the Marlins.
It's Stanton's second consecutive 30-homer season despite missing 30 games following knee surgery in July. He hit 34 in 2011 after hitting 22 as a rookie.
Stanton's estimated 436-foot drive off Shawn Marcum pulled Miami to 3-2. Hernandez's two-run shot off the top of the wall in left-center, gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead. Hernandez homered for the first time in his 90th major league at-bat.
Aoki's RBI double in the seventh inning off Dunn tied it 4-all before Braun gave the Brewers a 5-4 lead with an infield hit scoring Nyjer Morgan.
"We caught a break on Brauny's ball," Roenicke said. "We don't get many of those and it was real timely."
Loe retired the only batter he faced to pick up the win in relief of Marcum, who allowed four runs in 5 2-3 innings for the Brewers.
"Any time you go out there and they give you an early lead you obviously want to keep it," Marcum said. "I didn't do my job and keep it, but they went out there, battled back and got some big runs and big hits."
LeBlanc allowed three runs in six innings.
"I definitely finished better than I started," LeBlanc said. "Against a lineup like those guys have, if you're not ready to roll from the first pitch, it's going to be tough to bounce back. Luckily, I was able to refocus and make some pitches."
NOTES: Guillen would like to see RHP Heath Bell as the closer in 2013 after losing his job to RHP Steve Cishek at the All-Star break. "I hope and I wish Bell is our closer next year," Guillen said. "Our whole ballclub is better when Bell is the closer. There's no doubt in my mind that if this kid pitches well our bullpen is going to be stronger." ... Miami transferred RHP JC Oviedo to the 60-day disabled list and selected the contract of Ramos. ... Milwaukee RHP Wily Peralta (0-0, 9.00 ERA) will make his first major league start on Wednesday after making his debut in April. "I'm very excited to start, that's what I've been doing my whole career in the minor leagues," Peralta said. "The first time I came out of the bullpen and felt a little weird, but now I'm on my normal routine." Peralta will oppose Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (4-10, 4.48 ERA), who is 3-4 with a 5.03 ERA in seven starts with the Marlins.