ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves finally climbed over .500
They’d like to stay there a while.
Tommy Hanson pitched three-hit ball over six innings, Martin Prado drove in three runs and the Braves broke it open with a big sixth, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 8-3 in the opening game of a doubleheader Wednesday.
Chipper Jones and Brian McCann drove in two runs apiece for the Braves, who moved above .500 (16-15) for the first time since April 5.
“I don’t even know how long it’s been,” Hanson said. “It’s good to get over .500. Now, we’ve got to keep pushing.”
One day after rain wiped out the second game of the series, the teams played two in unseasonably cool conditions for early May in Atlanta. The temperature was expected to dip into the 40s for the nightcap.
Hanson (4-3) shook off a sore back to stymie Milwaukee for his third straight win. His only big stumble came in the fourth when Prince Fielder homered. Otherwise, the big right-hander made it look easy, sending the disappointing Brewers to their fourth straight defeat.
“I made a stupid pitch to Fielder and he hit it a long way,” Hanson said. “For the most part, though, I didn’t feel like I made too many mistakes. Once I got ahead, I just tried to stay aggressive.”
Marco Estrada (1-1) took the loss for Milwaukee, which hoped to get a boost from Zack Greinke’s first start in Game 2. The 2009 Cy Young winner was acquired from Kansas City in the offseason but has been on the disabled list for the first month with a broken rib.
Already leading 4-2, the Braves knocked out Estrada in a four-run sixth. They loaded the bases with one out, even without getting a ball out of the infield. Nate McLouth reached on a throwing error by second baseman Rickie Weeks, Brooks Conrad walked and Prado got aboard on a grounder to the hole between third and short. Craig Counsell made a diving stop but had no play on the single.
Mitch Stetter came on face Jason Heyward, but the first pitch sailed wildly to the backstop, allowing McLouth to trot home. Jones followed with a two-run single to right and McCann tacked on a sacrifice fly.
Prado had three hits and scored twice. McLouth had a big day, too, out of the eighth spot, reaching base in all four plate appearances.
“When you’re at the bottom of the order, you’ve got to turn the lineup over ahead of the pitcher,” McLouth said. “That’s my job down there.”
The Milwaukee defense stumbled in the third, when the Braves erased a 1-0 deficit with two runs.
After McLouth led off with a double down the right-field line, Hanson squared around for a routine sacrifice bunt. Only one problem for the Brewers: no one covered first. Fielder charged in from first and Weeks broke to second, handing Hanson a gift single and Atlanta an extra out. Prado singled to right to bring home McLouth, and McCann put Atlanta ahead with a two-out single that shouldn’t have happened.
Freddie Freeman and Alex Gonzalez led off the Atlanta fourth with singles and McLouth was in the middle of things again, walking to load the bases with no outs. Hanson struck out looking, but Prado blooped a two-run single to center.
“We messed up that play,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “It’s just trying to get signs straight and paying attention to the signs, really, and making sure everybody’s in the right place.”
The Brewers jumped ahead in the second. Casey McGehee walked with one out, Mark Kotsay singled to left and Counsell came through with a two-out single. Fielder led off the fourth with his seventh homer, driving a 1-2 pitch into the right seats to briefly tie the game at 2.
Estrada went 5 1-3 innings and was charged with six earned runs, seven overall. He allowed eight hits, walked three and struck out five.
“We didn’t play a good game,” Roenicke said. “We can’t keep doing that.”
NOTES: The Braves are donating $100,000 to the Salvation Army and encouraging fans to help with relief efforts after last week’s deadly Southern storms. The team has set up collection bins at Turner Field and each of its minor league parks where fans can drop off items such as toiletries, baby products, cleaning supplies and nonperishable food. … Milwaukee’s rotation won’t be affected by Tuesday’s rainout, since Greinke was activated from the DL to make his first start in Game 2. The Braves will have to decide if they want either Hanson or Game 2 starter Tim Hudson to go Sunday on three days’ rest or call up someone from the minors to make a spot start.