Ryan Braun ready to break out as Milwaukee Brewers head to Chicago?


Ryan Braun struggled through the first month of the season, but could his last game of April be a portent of better times to come?

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The 2011 National League MVP entered Wednesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark hitting a very un-MVP-like .227/.271/.318 with two homers and five RBI in 19 games.

Considering his career numbers coming into this season were .306/.368/.550, it’s understandable there were lingering questions about the power outage.

Then Braun doubled his homer and RBI totals in a single outburst Wednesday, slamming two homers and driving in five runs in the Milwaukee Brewers’ 8-2 win over the Reds.

The best sign was that his first home run Wednesday was an opposite-field shot to right-center. His second was a grand slam to left-center.

When Braun’s going well, that middle of the field power is one of his trademarks.

Wednesday’s performance also gave Braun three home runs in his last two games heading into Friday’s series opener against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The win gave the Brewers at least a small bright spot in an opening month that was an unmitigated disaster.

The Brewers were 5-17 in April and enter May a full 10 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

That is a stark contrast from a year ago, when the Brewers roared through the first full calendar month of the season with a franchise-record 20 wins and held a 5½-game lead in the division when they awakened on May 1.

It’s the worst winning percentage and largest divisional deficit at the end of April in franchise history. The 1970 Brewers—the team’s inaugural season in the Cream City—went 5-15 in April, while the 1984 club found itself nine games out of first place on May 1 after going 9-11.

That 1984 season was the year the Detroit Tigers went 18-3 in April en route to a 35-5 start and a wire-to-wire run in the American League East.

Braun raised his slash line to .254/.293/423 with the big day on Wednesday, but the Brewers offense was mostly offensive through the opening month.

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  • Milwaukee’s .227 batting average is 13th in the NL, its .350 slugging percentage is 14th and the .277 slugging percentage ranks at the bottom of the 15-team circuit.

    The Brewers are also 13th with 71 runs scored. Their 3.23 runs per game ranks ahead of only the San Francisco Giants (3.00) and Philadelphia Phillies (2.73).

    Combine that with the league’s worst ERA (4.78) and it adds up to 5-17.

    The starting rotation has been the culprit for much of the staff’s woes. The starters allowed 5.36 runs per game in April and posted just seven quality starts in 22 games. The only rotation with a lower percentage of quality starts (six or more innings allowing three or fewer earned runs) was the Colorado Rockies, who had five in 21 games.

    First baseman Adam Lind was named the Brewers player of the month after hitting .333 with four homers and 13 RBI. Not a bad first month with a new ballclub.

    The pitcher of the month was reliever Michael Blazek, who allowed one earned run in 11 innings over nine appearances. He held opposing hitters to a .158 batting average and earned his first big-league victory on Sunday in the 6-3 win over the Cardinals at Miller Park.

    While it’s way too early to read too much into the standings, Milwaukee trails the Pittsburgh Pirates by seven games for the second NL wild-card spot and is eight games in back of the Cubs for the top playoff berth for the non-division winners.

    In other words, it’s a long uphill climb and it’s going to have to happen within the NL Central if it’s going to happen.

    But a productive Ryan Braun at least gives the Brewers a puncher’s chance of getting back into the mix.

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