MILWAUKEE (AP) — Marcell Ozuna and Ozzie Albies helped the Atlanta Braves build a big enough lead to protect their beleaguered bullpen.
Ozuna and Albies hit Atlanta’s first back-to-back homers of the season and the Braves snapped a three-game skid with a 6-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.
After the Braves squandered leads each of the last three days against Toronto, they built a 6-1 advantage and hung on this time even after Josh Tomlin allowed back-to-back homers to Luis Urías and Manny Piña in the ninth inning.
“Getting those extra runs are huge, as we see in a game like tonight,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.
Atlanta led 2-1 before Ozuna and Albies went deep against reliever Eric Lauer.
On Lauer’s first pitch of the fifth, Ozuna blasted a 439-foot drive to center field that bounced off the American Family Insurance sign at the bottom of the scoreboard. Ozuna heard a chorus of boos from the Milwaukee crowd when he stopped as he rounded third base to pose for an imaginary selfie, a home run celebration he started doing during the 2020 postseason.
Albies followed Ozuna’s shot by sending a 3-2 pitch over the center-field wall as well. Albies’ homer was projected at 425 feet.
“It felt amazing,” Ozuna said of the back-to-back shots.
Atlanta starter Drew Smyly, who signed a one-year, $11 million contract with the Braves in the offseason, showed he is starting to come around after a rough first month with his new team.
The 31-year-old left-hander has lasted six innings while giving up just one run in each of his last two starts. Smyly (2-2) allowed 21 runs — 17 earned — over 19 innings in four April starts.
“You’ve got to be able to have a short memory, stick to the plan and maintain your confidence,” Smyly said. “When you lose your confidence, that’s when things start spiraling out of control in this game.”
Milwaukee has lost nine of 12. The Brewers had some tough luck Friday as they hit several balls that were caught on the warning track.
The Brewers are 1 of 19 with runners in scoring position over their last two games.
“We hit them hard,” manager Craig Counsell said. “The timing of our offense is just not there as far as sequencing the hits. That’s really how we won a bunch of games early. We didn’t get a ton of hits but just sequenced them really well, and got them in the right spots.”
The Braves capitalized on Brewers starter Adrian Houser’s wildness to pull ahead for good in the third.
After Houser (3-4) walked the bases loaded, Austin Riley hit a two-out shot that appeared to go off the pitcher’s right leg before heading into center field for a two-run single that gave Atlanta a 2-1 lead.
Houser entered the night having walked just five batters over his last five starts, but he matched that total Friday while lasting a season-low three innings. His five walks were a career high in 37 starts.
“Just a rough night,” Houser said. “I didn’t feel real well out there. I felt a little weird on the mound and obviously couldn’t get things going.”
Braves: OF Ronald Acuña Jr., who entered this series with an MLB-leading 12 homers, wasn’t in the lineup after injuring his left ankle while trying to beat out a grounder a day earlier. Snitker said there’s a chance Acuña could play Saturday. … OF Cristian Pache went on the 10-day injured list with right hamstring inflammation. The Braves returned OF Ender Inciarte from a rehabilitation assignment and activated him from the IL.
Brewers: OF Christian Yelich began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville. He struck out in his only two at-bats. The 2018 NL MVP has played just one game for Milwaukee since April 11 due to a lower back strain.
It’s a matchup of Andersons as the Braves and Brewers continue their series Saturday in Milwaukee. RHP Ian Anderson (2-1, 3.46 ERA) starts for Atlanta against LHP Brett Anderson (2-2, 3.54).
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