A.J. Pierzynski’s recent tear at the plate continued Tuesday night as the Braves catcher collected three hits in support of rookie starter Manny Banuelos on the way to a 4-3 win over the Brewers at Miller Park. The victory was Atlanta’s sixth in its past seven games as the club improved to 42-42.
Pierzynski crushed a solo home run in the second inning and followed it with a run-scoring single in the fourth off Brewers starter Tyler Cravy. Cravy, making his second career start, retired nine of the first 10 Atlanta batters, but surrendered seven hits over the next three innings, including an RBI triple by Cameron Maybin and Nick Markakis’ RBI single in the seventh off reliever Will Smith.
“Second time [through the order], they were pretty comfortable,” Cravy said. “I don’t think I threw inside enough. They did a real good job staying on balls low and out of the zone and putting good swings on those.”
Banuelos, also making his second career start, recovered from a 29-pitch first and a Jonathan Lucroy solo home run to allow just three hits over his final 4 1/3 innings. The effort proved effective enough to provide the southpaw his first Major League win.
“We talked about needing to get more than one or two pitches over the plate, so we started throwing some more curveballs and some sliders,” Pierzynski said. “[Banuelos] threw them for strikes and they had to change their game plan because they were going up there looking for first-pitch heaters and swinging.”
Pierzynski began his third straight three-hit game with the second-inning home run that accounted for the only baserunner Atlanta produced until Kelly Johnson drew a two-out walk in the fourth. That helped put Johnson in position to score on the first of two singles notched by Pierzynski, who has 10 hits in his past 13 at-bats.
Lucroy’s solo home run off Banuelos got the Brewers on the board in the opening frame for the eighth time in their past nine games. The homer was only Lucroy’s second since coming off the disabled list May 31. However, the Brewers catcher entered Tuesday batting .289 (37-for-128) with 15 RBIs during that span.
“It felt good to hit one like that, go [opposite field] on a changeup,” Lucroy said. “Just trying to get comfortable and hit the ball hard, and wherever it goes, it’s going to go. I hit the ball hard my third at-bat, but right at the guy. That’s the way it’s been going, man. Just keep hitting the ball hard and hopefully they fall more than they’re caught.”
After adjusting to the aggressive approach the Brewers took during the first inning, Banuelos righted himself with a five-pitch second. His third-inning pickoff of Jean Segura proved significant when Ryan Braun notched a two-out double. The Braves’ southpaw has allowed just one run over 11 innings in his first two starts.
“I’m excited to get my first [win],” Banuelos said. “That was pretty fun.”
Pinch-hitting Peterson: Shane Peterson picked up his second run-scoring hit in as many nights off the bench with an RBI double in the seventh inning off Mike Foltynewicz. The hit scored Khris Davis, who returned from the disabled list Tuesday after tearing his right meniscus on May 30. Peterson was chosen to pinch-hit over hot-hitting Gerardo Parra, whom Davis started over in left field.
While appearing in a third consecutive game, Jason Grilli notched three strikeouts in a perfect ninth for the second time in three days. Atlanta’s closer has struck out nine of the 15 batters he has faced in July.
David Carpenter struck out Braun to strand runners at the corners in the seventh. Carpenter became the 49th different player and 23rd different reliever used by the Braves this season. The club’s franchise record is 50 players, set in 2007.
Banuelos earned his first career win with the assistance of his long-time friend Arodys Vizcaino. The two were roommates when they began their professional careers together with the 2008 Gulf Coast Yankees.
Vizcaino erased the two runners he inherited from Banuelos by inducing Aramis Ramirez’s double play to end the sixth. The hard-throwing reliever was making his first appearance since drawing a 80-game PED suspension at the end of Spring Training.
Seeking a sweep, Atlanta will send Julio Teheran to the mound for Wednesday’s 1:10 p.m. CT series finale against Milwaukee. Teheran has posted a National League-worst 7.40 road ERA, but he surrendered just two hits and one run in seven innings against the Brewers earlier this season in Atlanta.