MILWAUKEE (AP) — Left for dead in the playoff race a month ago, the Milwaukee Brewers inched closer to a wild card spot after sweeping the Atlanta Braves, a scenario that had backup first baseman Travis Ishikawa searching to explain the team's recent surge.
Ishikawa, subbing for the injured Corey Hart, blasted a bases-clearing double in Milwaukee's eight-run fifth inning, coming after a three-run home run by Rickie Weeks earlier in the frame, and the Brewers beat the Braves 8-2 Wednesday night.
"I felt like we had dug a hole pretty deep that we weren't going to be able to get out of," Ishikawa said. "That just shows you the character of this team. As far out as we've been and as bad as we played earlier this year, we just found a way to play the ball we knew we were capable of playing. We've got a little ways to go, but it's definitely going to be a fun few weeks."
The victory was the Brewers' ninth in a row at Miller Park and 18th in the past 23 games overall. Milwaukee (72-71) climbed above .500 for the first time since it was 4-3 on April 12.
The Brewers moved within three games of St. Louis for the second NL wild card. Despite the loss, the Braves continue to have a strong hold on the top wild card position.
Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo also connected for a run-scoring double in the game-turning inning, during which the Brewers sent 13 batters to the plate while collecting eight hits and two walks. Milwaukee trailed 2-0 entering the frame.
Gallardo (15-8) pitched seven strong innings in his majors-leading 24th quality start of the season. He gave up two runs on only four hits while walking three and striking out six.
Relievers Jose Veras and Kameron Loe combined to shut out the Braves over the final two innings.
"It's pretty exciting in here right now, for all of us," Gallardo said. "We've just got to keep it up. That's a tough team on the other side and being able to win all three games is huge."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke credited Gallardo for overcoming early control issues.
"At the beginning the command was a little off. Then he gets it going again and starts getting in a rhythm," Roenicke said. "He threw some great curveballs today."
Atlanta starter Paul Maholm (12-10) held the Brewers scoreless through four innings before running into major trouble in the fifth.
Maholm gave up nine hits, eight runs — six earned — in 4 1-3 innings. He walked two batters and struck out a pair. Maholm entered the game 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in two prior starts against the Brewers this season.
"I can't say I like this place. I'm kind of glad to be out of here and not coming back this year. They've got a good lineup. Obviously, they know me and I know them," Maholm said.
Roenicke struggled to explain the Brewers' success this season against Maholm.