Brewers beat Braves 2-0 in Braun's 1st game back
By GENARO C. ARMAS
MILWAUKEE (AP) Ryan Braun stepped into the batter's box, admittedly a bit anxious. The sellout crowd at Miller Park quickly put him at ease, showering him with a standing ovation.
First day back on the job after a drug suspension was already a day to remember for the Brewers slugger. Then he added another unique footnote to his career.
Braun went 1 for 4 and stole a base that helped set up a two-run inning, and later was ruled out in the first call overturned under baseball's expanded replay system as Milwaukee beat the Atlanta Braves 2-0 on Monday in a season opener.
The former MVP was returning from suspension for the final 65 games last year in the Biogenesis doping scandal. Played his first game as a right fielder, too.
What a way to start the season.
"It was special. It was an emotional moment for me," Braun said.
Braun said the ovation affected him. He flied out to left.
"Swung at some pitches that I typically don't swing at, but it's something that I'm very thankful for and very appreciative," Braun said.
Among the 45,691 people in attendance was Commissioner Bud Selig. Two years ago, Braun became the first MLB player to get a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs overturned. Originally banned for 50 games, he filed a grievance and won.
"Fans are fans. That's the way it's supposed to be. He's their hometown player and it was a wonderful reaction. I wish everybody well," Selig said.
Later, Braun had his infield single to lead off the sixth overturned to out after the call was challenged by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez under Major League Baseball's new replay format.
The review took 58 seconds.
"I had a pretty good idea that I was out," Braun said, drawing laughs. "For all of us, we just hope they get it right, and they did get it right."
Yovani Gallardo (1-0) tossed six shutout innings for the win. He allowed just four hits in becoming the first pitcher in franchise history to make five straight opening day starts.
A Braves lineup being relied on to help overcome the adversity to the injury-plagued pitching staff was silenced. Andrelton Simmons finished with two hits.
"You go up there, your third at-bat and (Gallardo) will throw you something completely different," said cleanup hitter Chris Johnson, who went 1 for 4 with a double. "Where did that come from? ... He's one of the tougher guys in the league."
In a bit of a surprise, Francisco Rodriguez struck out two in the ninth for his 305th career save. The veteran righty looked fine about two weeks after accidentally stepping on a cactus during spring training.
Manager Ron Roenicke said he turned to Rodriguez because Jim Henderson, who had 28 saves last season, was having a little trouble of late with his stuff. He hoped a couple outings outside the ninth would help Henderson get straightened out.
"For his first start, for his first opening day, I thought he did a terrific job," Gonzalez said.
But all eyes in Miller Park were on Braun to start after the 2011 NL MVP played his first game since July 21. He was banned the next day.
It seemed like all was forgiven for most in attendance.
Braun's hit and steal set up a two-run double by Aramis Ramirez in the fourth.
"It's special, we all know what he went through last year," Ramirez said. "For the fans to do that, it was very special."
Braun and Ramirez also missed time last season because of injuries.
With their third- and fourth-place hitters back, the Brewers like their chances with an offense that also features the speedy Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura at the top of the order. If the rest of the starting rotation throws like Gallardo, Milwaukee could challenge St. Louis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the NL Central.
NOTES: A trio of Wisconsin-born Olympians from the 2014 Winter Games in Russia threw out the ceremonial first pitches: Brianna Decker and Jessica Vetter were each members of the U.S. women's hockey team that won silver, while Matt Antoine won the bronze in the skeleton competition. ... Injured RHP Gavin Floyd and LHP Mike Minor are on the same rehab program in the minors for the Braves. Both are scheduled to throw Thursday and then go every fifth day barring any setbacks. The Braves plan to shuffle them between Triple-A Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi. ... With four strikeouts, Gallardo assumed sole possession of second place on the team's career strikeout list with 1,084. Ben Sheets is first with 1,206 strikeouts.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP
Updated March 31, 2014
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