published Friday, April 8th, 2011

Brewers turn back the Braves 4-2

MILWAUKEE — The pinpoint-control, paint-the-black Shaun Marcum hasn't shown up yet for the Milwaukee Brewers.

But if his outing Thursday afternoon was any indication, that mound marksman is on his way.

Marcum survived some shaky early work to turn in six solid innings as the Brewers pulled out a 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Miller Park to run their winning streak to three games.

Yes, this is the same team that opened the season 0-4.

"Baseball is fun again," said leftfielder Ryan Braun, who got the Brewers off to a good start with a two-run homer in the first inning off Tommy Hanson, his fourth career blast off the Braves' right-hander.

"We're just enjoying ourselves out there. We're playing with emotion. It's a tough game, so when you do have some success, I think it's good that you enjoy it."

Marcum's outing certainly was more enjoyable than his first in Cincinnati, when he matched his career high of five walks in 42/3 innings, allowing four runs. Other than Martin Prado, who managed to slap a 0-2 fastball off the plate into right field for a two-run single in the second inning, the Braves were unable to dent the scoreboard off the changeup specialist.

"I still struggled with my command a little bit," said Marcum, who picked up his first National League victory. "Other than that, I was fortunate when I got some pitches up in the zone, they hit balls right at people. They made some good plays defensively behind me.

"My changeup was good; it was down in the zone where I wanted it to be. But there were times when my fastball got away from me a little bit. We were able to mix in the curveball today to keep them off-balance."

After Prado drew the Braves even with his good piece of hitting, the Braves managed only a pair of harmless singles off Marcum over his final four innings. He finished with five hits and two walks allowed while logging four strikeouts.

Marcum is still playing catch-up after missing a start in spring training because of shoulder tightness. With a pitch count ceiling of 90, manager Ron Roenicke pulled the plug after six innings because Marcum was at 89.

"I'm interested in seeing how he comes out of this," said Roenicke. "If he has no issues and nothing more than normal stiffness, we'll extend him out a little next time.

"After the first couple of innings, his pitch count was high. Then he settled down. The last four innings, he was efficient with his pitches. I like the way he threw the ball. That's the guy we know. Hopefully, he builds from this."

The Brewers took the lead for good in the bottom of the second thanks to the speed of rightfielder Nyjer Morgan, who doubled with one down. After stealing third base, Morgan scored on George Kottaras' grounder to second baseman Dan Uggla, beating the throw as well as bowling over catcher Brian McCann, who tried to block the plate.

The final run came in the seventh as the Brewers made next to nothing from loading the bases with no outs against reliever Peter Moylan, including Carlos Gomez's second bunt hit of the game. Lefty Jonny Venters came in and induced Prince Fielder to bounce to first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose throw home was both errant and too late to get Rickie Weeks charging in from third.

That left it to the Brewers' bullpen. Mitch Stetter and Sergio Mitre combined to cover the seventh inning, and workhorse Kameron Loe escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the eighth by getting Alex Gonzalez to bounce into a force at second.

Closer John Axford worked around a one-out single by Matt Young — his first hit in the majors — in the ninth to record his second save in two games. Thanks to what he acknowledged as an "overall team effort," Marcum was rewarded with his first victory for the Brewers.

"One thing I'm going to keep doing is try to get better each time out," said Marcum. "For the most part, I felt pretty good."

As for the turnabout in the team's fortunes, Marcum added, "We never had any doubt in our mind. Teams go through four-, five-, six-, seven-game losing streaks in the middle of the year but it's not under a microscope like it is at the beginning of the season.

"It's just one of those things that happens in baseball. We've played hard from the get-go. We're going to continue to play hard and more times than not, we're going to be on top."

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