Published November 20, 2014
Ryan Braun celebrated 30-30 and helped the Milwaukee Brewers start their final push toward a first NL Central title.
Braun homered twice and became only the second player in Brewers history to get 30 homers and steals in a season Friday night, setting up a 6-3 victory that eliminated the Cincinnati Reds from playoff contention.
Braun hit one of Milwaukee's four homers off Bronson Arroyo (8-12), then added his 30th off reliever Jeremy Horst. Braun, who also has 31 steals, joined Tommy Harper as the franchise's only 30-30 players.
"I'm really proud," Braun said. "There's a reason it's only been done one other time in franchise history. It's a hard thing to do."
So is finally nailing down that title.
The Brewers led by 10½ games on Sept. 5, but allowed the Cardinals to stay in it by dropping six of their last nine. They're up by 5½ and on pace to clinch next week in Chicago.
After the win, most of the Brewers stood around in the clubhouse and loudly cheered Philadelphia's late rally attempt against the Cardinals, who held on for a 4-2 win in 11 innings. They had a sense things were headed in the right direction.
"That's been the goal all year, to go out with a bang," said Prince Fielder, who hit the first of Milwaukee's five homers. "Hopefully we got it back on track. Tonight was a good start."
Fielder, Braun, Mark Kotsay and George Kottaras homered off Arroyo, who has given up a club-record 44. Milwaukee had seven hits, five of them homers.
Left-hander Randy Wolf (13-9) gave up three runs and seven hits while pitching into the eighth inning. Joey Votto had three singles and drove in all the Reds' runs. John Axford pitched the ninth for his 43rd save in 45 chances. He has converted 40 in a row, a club record.
Milwaukee reduced its clinching number to seven — Brewers wins or Cardinals losses.
"We'd been playing so well," Fielder said. "Unfortunately it (the slump) happened at the time we were trying to separate really far. We're still in good position, though. There's no need to panic, in my opinion."
The loss eliminated the defending NL Central champions from the wild card race. The Reds opened the season by sweeping three games from Milwaukee at Great American Ball Park and won their first five overall, but couldn't find the consistency that led them to the title last year. They were in second place or worse after May 18.
Arroyo came down with mononucleosis during spring training and never totally recovered, setting up a strange season. The right-hander has given up 44 walks and 44 homers. He's six homers away from the major-league record and wouldn't want to skip a start to avoid it.
"You don't want to cower like that," Arroyo said. "At the end of the day, the only way you lose is if you lose heart. You leave your guts on the field. You have to go out and not try to give up four or five home runs."
Fielder's 33rd homer extended his hitting streak to nine games. The first baseman caused a mild stir earlier in the week by telling TBS that this was "probably" his last season with the Brewers, and he wanted to go out "with a blast."
Kotsay hit a two-run shot in the third inning, only his third of the season. Braun followed with his 29th on the next pitch, the third time that Arroyo has given up back-to-back homers this season. Kottaras' solo shot in the seventh marked the second time that Arroyo gave up four homers in a game this season.
Votto singled home a run in the first inning. Wolf retired 13 in a row before leaving with the bases loaded in the eighth, when Votto had a two-run single off Francisco Rodriguez.
Notes: Harper had 31 homers and 38 steals in 1970. ... Bert Blyleven gave up a major-league record 50 homers for Minnesota in 1986. Jose Lima set the NL record by allowing 48 in 2000 with Houston. ... Reds C Ryan Hanigan was unavailable because of back spasms. ... RH Yovani Gallardo will make his third start of the season against Cincinnati on Saturday. He is 0-0 with a 6.55 ERA so far. The right-hander is 2-3 in 10 career starts against the Reds. ... Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez makes his second start since he was recalled from Triple-A. The right-hander lasted only five innings Sunday in Colorado and took a loss.