SAN DIEGO – With an impressive display of power, Ryan Braun made Petco Park look downright cozy.
Braun had his first three-homer game and added a two-run triple to tie his career high with six RBIs, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to an 8-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday night.
The reigning NL MVP became the first player to hit three home runs in a game at spacious Petco Park since it opened in 2004. It came several days after the Padres said they are studying bringing in the fences at the downtown ballpark to make it more fair.
"It was just one night," Braun said. "There's no doubt this is one of the more challenging if not the most challenging place to hit home runs in the league. I think for fans, you want to see offense. Offense is exciting when teams are scoring runs. It's a lot of fun for the fans to watch. So I think if they did do that, it would make it more of a neutral ballpark. As of right now it certainly favors pitchers pretty substantially."
Petco Park's deep outfield, particularly in right and right-center, swallows fly balls that would be homers in other yards, particularly on cool nights like Monday.
Not on this night, though.
Braun hit a solo homer deep into the sandy play area beyond the right-center fence — one of the deepest parts of the park — with one out in the fourth. That homer was in the area where the Padres are considering bringing in the fences.
He drove a two-run shot onto the balcony on the fourth level of the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner with one out in the fifth. Both were off rookie Joe Wieland (0-4). Rickie Weeks was aboard on a walk before Braun's second homer.
"He put some good swings on pitches. He's strong. You're talking about the MVP of the league," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's got big power and he showed it. After the first, he really locked in after that."
Braun's third shot, to left, came on the first pitch he saw from Ernesto Frieri with two outs in the seventh.
Braun came up again with two on and two outs in the ninth and nearly equaled the major league record of four home runs in a game when he hit a triple that short-hopped the right-center fence. The slugger has seven homers and 17 RBIs.
"It's definitely special," Braun said. "It's an extremely challenging game we play. You're going to deal with a lot of failure, a lot of adversity, and when you have a special night like that you try to enjoy it and it's that much more fun and enjoyable when your team wins the game. It was definitely a pretty cool night."
Shortly after he won the MVP award last year, ESPN reported that Braun failed a drug test in October with a high testosterone level. But he won his appeal and avoided a 50-game suspension. Then he made his case to fans upon his arrival in spring training, saying that chain of custody issues with his urine sample cast doubt on the validity of the test.
That didn't end the controversy; baseball officials were unhappy with the arbitrator's decision, and a urine sample collector issued a statement saying he followed proper protocols and that there was no evidence of tampering. Braun also has hinted that there's more to the story than he's letting on, refusing to share those details.
Braun began the night batting .263.
"You know these nights are few and far between," he 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."
Randy Wolf (2-2) got the win after allowing three runs and nine hits in five innings.
Wieland became the third Padres pitcher to start a season 0-4 in his first four starts. He allowed five runs — three earned — and five hits in five innings, struck out eight and walked two.
San Diego took a 1-0 lead on Yonder Alonso's RBI single with two outs in the second and was poised to add on when it got runners to second and third with no outs in the third. Wieland singled for his first big league hit and advanced on Chris Denorfia's double to center. But Wolf struck out Jesus Guzman and retired Chase Headley and Nick Hundley to end the threat.
After Braun's solo shot in the fourth, Aramis Ramirez reached on second baseman Orlando Hudson's error, Mat Gamel singled with two outs and Alex Gonzalez doubled them both in for a 3-1 lead.
Braun's second homer made it 5-2. San Diego added a run on Jason Bartlett's double-play ball in the sixth before Braun homered again.
NOTES: Black said LF Carlos Quentin is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Tucson on Tuesday. The plan is to use him as DH on Tuesday and then have him play left field on Wednesday. Quentin began the season on the disabled list after having knee surgery during spring training. ... The three-game series continues Tuesday night with Milwaukee RHP Shaun Marcum (1-1, 4.13 ERA) scheduled to pitch against San Diego RHP Edinson Volquez (0-2, 3.60). ... The Padres said Braun is the first player to hit three homers and a triple in a game since Fred Lynn did it for Boston at Detroit on June 18, 1975, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau.