Braun sits amid slump

This was a first for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke: Leaving Ryan Braun out of the starting lineup not because of any physical issue, not a rest issue, but a production issue.

Braun was on the bench for Wednesday’s series finale at Coors Field after going 6-for-42 (.143) over his previous 10 games, including an 0-for-5 on Tuesday night that included a strikeout with the bases loaded in the eighth inning and a game-ending flyout in the ninth with the tying run on base.

The reigning National League MVP still leads the league with 29 home runs, but has not hit one since winning a 14-pitch battle with Astros reliever Fernando Rodriguez at Miller Park on Aug. 1.

“Talking to him, trying to figure out how to get him back, sometimes we talk about guys needing to go out there and play and they’ll get it back, and sometimes taking a day off helps,” Roenicke said. “Whatever we’re doing, it’s not working lately. I’ve never seen him struggle this long.”

Roenicke raised the idea with Braun on Tuesday night of taking a day off. The slugger thought about it for some time before agreeing.

“He’s frustrated,” Roenicke said. “I don’t want to say it’s the worst that I’ve seen him, because when he’s doing well, he gets frustrated if he goes ‘oh-for’ two days in a row. I think he’s just more baffled as to why it’s lasting this long, because it usually doesn’t. We talked yesterday about how really consistent he’s been this year — more than I saw him last year.”

Last year, on the way to winning the Brewers’ first league MVP award since Robin Yount in 1989, Braun was more streaky. This season he has mostly avoided the ups and downs and been a steady contributor, even without Prince Fielder’s presence in the on-deck circle affecting pitchers’ approaches to Braun.

Despitshis current funk, Braun remains one of baseball’s most dangerous hitters. Entering Thursday, only five players, all in the American League, had more home runs than Braun. He was tied for second in the NL with 237 total bases, third with a .567 slugging percentage and tied for fourth with 77 RBIs.

Speaking about his slump on Tuesday afternoon Braun said, “It just lets me know that the longer I don’t go good, the higher the likelihood is that I will have a good game and get locked back in. I feel good. As long as I feel good, physically, I’m fine. I have no doubt that I’m going to finish the season strong.”

Roenicke said Braun would return to the lineup for Thursday’s series opener against the Phillies at Miller Park.

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