By JIM HOEHN, Associated Press
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jesus Aguilar is bashing his way to a breakout season at the expense of the Atlanta Braves.
Just listen to his manager sing his praises.
“He’s been brilliant, man, he really has,” Milwaukee skipper Craig Counsell said.
Aguilar homered twice and Hernan Perez added a three-run shot, powering the Brewers to a 10-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Aguilar hit a solo drive in the seventh and a three-run shot in the eighth. The burly slugger moved into a tie with Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for the NL lead with 22 homers.
The 28-year-old Aguilar has 11 homers and 26 RBIs in his last 20 games. He hit a career-high 16 homers last year.
“He’s having an MVP season, he really is,” Counsell said. “He’s having an incredible season. I think he’s leading the league in home runs now. He’s certainly in the top five of offensive seasons in the National League right now.”
Milwaukee also got another solid start from Junior Guerra (6-5) in its sixth win in seven games. The right-hander allowed one run and seven hits in six innings, helped by three double plays.
“I credit them for making him work a little bit,” Counsell said. “But, he still kept it together and made big pitches with some guys on base.”
Freddie Freeman had three hits and drove in a run for Atlanta, which has dropped five of six. The Braves remained in a virtual tie with Philadelphia for the NL East lead, just percentage points back of the Phillies.
Atlanta left-hander Sean Newcomb (8-4) was tagged for five runs and five hits in 3 2/3 innings. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his previous outing against the Yankees, allowing five runs and three hits with five walks.
“It was probably feel,” Newcomb said. “Not having my best stuff. Not getting ahead of hitters and attacking them the way I should be. … Wipe it clean and move forward.”
Milwaukee grabbed control with five runs in the third. Christian Yelich singled in Jonathan Villar and Travis Shaw had a sacrifice fly before Perez hit a drive to center for his sixth homer.
Eric Thames opened the eighth with his first career pinch-hit homer, making it 7-1 with his 13th homer of the season.
The 33-year-old Guerra struck out four and walked three in his third straight win.
“Thankfully, I was able to make pitches and the defense behind me was able to come through with some big double plays, and we were able to escape those jams without too much damage,” Guerra said through an interpreter.
Atlanta got on the board in the fifth. Dansby Swanson doubled and scored when shortstop Tyler Saladino misplayed Ender Inciarte’s popup in shallow left for an error. The Braves had runners on the corners with one out when Guerra got Freeman to bounce into a double play.
The Braves, who lost three of four in the series, left runners on second and third in the sixth when Swanson flied to right.
“We had the big innings this series,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “Three or four big innings that we couldn’t get out of the way of. Our starters have been really solid but we are going through a rut with them now.”
The Brewers closed out a 6-1 homestand and stayed 1 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Cubs in the NL Central. At 54-36, the Brewers are off to the best 90-game start in franchise history.
The Brewers activated outfielder Lorenzo Cain from the 10-day disabled list as part of a flurry of pregame moves. Cain, who had been sidelined by a left groin strain, went 1 for 4 and scored two runs.
The NL Central leaders also placed outfielder Ryan Braun and catcher Manny Pina on the DL. Right-hander Aaron Wilkerson was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs, and left-handed reliever Mike Zagurski was designated for assignment.
Top pitching prospect Corbin Burnes, catcher Jacob Nottingham and infielder Nate Orf were called up from Triple-A.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Atlanta’s Ender Inciarte walked to open the third, but was thrown out at second attempting to advance on Ozzie Albies’ fly ball to center. The Braves challenged, but the on-field call was upheld after a review.
Freeman followed with a single.
Braves: After an off day, Atlanta begins a two-game series at home against Toronto. Right-hander Julio Teheran (6-6, 4.47 ERA) starts for the Braves, opposed by Marcus Stroman (1-6, 6.50 ERA). Teheran is 2-5 with 4.89 ERA in his last seven starts.
Brewers: Right-hander Chase Anderson (6-6, 3.99 ERA) opens a three-game series at Miami on Monday. Anderson is 1-0 with a 1.56 ERA over his last three starts. Jose Urena (2-9, 4.18) starts for the Marlins.