Big break turns into big Brewers win

For six long innings Friday night, the only place the Brewers found success was Minute Maid Park’s out-of-town scoreboard, where the Reds kept pushing ahead of the Cardinals in a slugfest.

That changed beginning with two outs in the top of the seventh, when the Brewers broke through for their first three runs and turned a shutout loss into a blowout win, 8-2 over the Astros. Ryan Braun’s go-ahead single was the difference in a win that, with the Cardinals’ loss, gave the Brewers an 8 1/2-game lead in the National League Central. Math is ever more on Milwaukee’s side.

The Brewers’ magic number to clinch the division is 16. They have 23 regular-season games remaining and the Cardinals have 24.

“You’re looking at the game, wondering if we’re going to score any runs or not,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “And all of a sudden, you start busting out. I wish we did it a little earlier sometimes.”

It took a while, but the Brewers scored as many runs in the final three innings Friday as they had in all three losses to the Cardinals the previous three days. The St. Louis sweep at Miller Park had shaved three games off Milwaukee’s lead.

So as the Cardinals traded runs with the Reds on the out-of-town scoreboard, the Brewers were watching.

“Anybody who tells you we’re not paying attention, they’re lying,” Braun said. “Of course we’re paying attention. We saw [the Reds] jump out, 5-0, then [the Cardinals] came back and tied it. We were losing 2-0. Of course we’re paying attention.”

The Brewers caught a big break during their decisive rally in the seventh inning. With two outs, Corey Hart hit a pop-up along the third base line that would have been caught had it not struck the roof and been ruled dead. Later in the at-bat, Hart singled to keep the line moving.

“They had two guys camped right there,” said Brewers third base coach Ed Sedar. “They would have had it.”

“That’s when you know you’re going good,” Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum said of Hart, who needed the hit that followed to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.

“The way it worked out, it could have been huge,” Astros shortstop Clint Barmes said. “We make that play and get out of the inning. That’s baseball.”

The Brewers scored three runs in that inning, two in the eighth and three more in the ninth to win.

Some more tidbits from Friday:

– Brewers shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt said he was OK late Friday after being struck in the underside of his right elbow and exiting a win over the Astros in the eighth inning. The Brewers said Betancourt was day-to-day, and he did not require x-rays.

– Pitching coach Rick Kranitz took a temporary leave from the team Friday morning and traveled to Las Vegas to be with his ailing mother. Stan Kyles, the Brewers’ bullpen coach, will fill-in for Kranitz, who is not expected back during the Brewers’ series against the Astros.

– The Brewers boosted their record to 82-57 on Friday, sealing their 13th winning season in 43 as a franchise.

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