Braun eyeing NL batting title

The National League batting title is within Ryan Braun’s reach, and the Brewers left fielder is not afraid to admit it’s most definitely on his mind.

Braun began the Brewers’ series at Citi Field with a .329 average, seven points behind injured Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. While Reyes nurses a stiff left hamstring, Braun has been gaining. He put an eight-game hitting streak on the line Friday night, a stretch that added eight points to Braun’s average.

Reyes’ average has been as high as .355 since the All-Star break, but he batted .288 in July and was off to a .222 start in August before the hamstring shut him down. Reyes, who could return next week, is currently batting .336.

Is catching Reyes on Braun’s radar?

“Of course,” he said. “My biggest goal is always to be the best me that I could be. I feel like I’m always competing with myself to get better. I think the highest average I’ve finished with is .320 in ’09, .324 in ’07, so it would be nice to finish with a higher average than I’ve ever had before. I’ve played this game long enough to know you have no control over what anybody else does.”

The last four NL batting champs have all been power hitters — Matt Holliday in 2007, Chipper Jones in ’08, Hanley Ramirez in ’09 and Carlos Gonzalez last season, each of whom topped 20 home runs. Braun insisted that challenging Reyes would not turn him into a singles hitter.

Manager Ron Roenicke was not surprised to hear that.

“He really likes to drive the ball,” Roenicke said with a smile.

Said Braun: “It’s like when I was going through the hitting streak [a 23-game run in June and July] you guys were asking me about it, and I was like, ‘It doesn’t change my approach.’ … The goal is to get extra-base hits. That’s where I bring the most value to the team — getting into scoring position and driving in runs. I’ll never change my approach just to get a higher batting average.”

Health is helping Braun’s cause. He dealt with left shoulder and left leg injuries before the All-Star break, and while he conceded the leg occasionally still gives him trouble, Braun is playing second to full strength. He heaped praise on athletic trainers Roger Caplinger and Dan Wright for that.

Before those injuries, Roenicke saw Braun on pace for an historic season, not just a very good one.

“I could see him winning a batting title,” Roenicke said. “He’ll take his walks when he needs to. He doesn’t chase out of the zone that much. He hits to all fields, which I think is really important to hit for a high average. He sees the ball better than most players.”

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