MILWAUKEE (AP) — Norichika Aoki has been coming up with some big hits for the Brewers during a surge that has taken them to the fringe of the NL wild-card race.
Aoki had a two-run double to key a four-run seventh inning and made a key defensive throw, helping the Milwaukee Brewers rally past the Atlanta Braves 4-1 Monday night.
The Brewers sent 10 batters to the plate in the seventh, but did all the damage on two hits and a sacrifice fly in snapping the Braves' five-game winning streak.
"The few hits we got, Nori's was huge," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said after Milwaukee improved to 15-2 over their last 17 home games, including a seven-game winning streak at Miller Park. "He's really been driving the ball. He's hitting both gaps. It's a nice swing. It's not feeling for the ball. He's swinging it."
On Sunday, Aoki's two-run homer in the ninth against St. Louis tied the game at 4, but the Brewers lost to the Cardinals 5-4 on Allen Craig's two-out RBI single.
Aoki, speaking through his interpreter Kosuke Inaji, said that he really wasn't shocked by the new power stroke.
"I really wouldn't say surprised," Aoki said. "I'm happy with the results of the extra-base hits I've been getting lately."
Milwaukee has won 16 of 21. The Brewers entered Monday six games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild-card spot. The Braves were 5 1-2 games ahead of the Cardinals for home-field advantage in the one-game wild-card playoff.
Martin Maldonado led off the seventh with a single off Jonny Venters (5-4), who was trying to protect a 1-0 lead for Braves starter Mike Minor. Pinch-hitter Jean Segura then walked.
Milwaukee got a break when Jeff Bianchi bunted back to Venters, who fielded the sacrifice and threw wide of third baseman Chipper Jones. Pinch-runner Eric Farris scored on the throwing error and Segura and Bianchi each moved up a base.
"Mike threw the ball so well and my job is to come in and hold them down," Venters said. "I didn't do my job. I gave it up."
Venters said it was bad fundamentals.
"I felt like I got there quick, but I rushed it and made a bad throw," he said.
Chad Durbin came on to face pinch-hitter Jonathan Lucroy and walked him to load the bases. Aoki then hit a 2-0 pitch to the wall in left for a two-run double. Lucroy scored on Carlos Gomez's sacrifice fly to complete the scoring.
Jose Veras (4-4) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to earn the victory.
John Axford worked the ninth for his 28th save.
The Braves had four runners thrown out on the base paths, committed two errors and issued seven walks. They also left seven men on base over the final six innings.
"A lot of good things happening without getting a lot of hits," Roenicke said. "Great pitching. Nori, the throw to third. Gomey, the throw to third, Maldonado, the two throws, one on the steal, one on the pickoff. Some big plays defensively."
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