MILWAUKEE -- At this point, Nyjer Morgan is making it tough for his new manager to keep his name off the lineup card.
Morgan almost single-handedly manufactured the go-ahead run in the Milwaukee Brewers' 4-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, doubling, stealing a base and then knocking the ball loose in a home-plate collision with catcher Brian McCann in the second inning."He's exciting to watch," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He plays hard. He's a spark."The Brewers' pitching staff clamped down after Morgan's play, holding the Braves scoreless the rest of the way.Ryan Braun hit his third home run of the season for the Brewers, who have recovered nicely from a four-game losing streak to start the year. Milwaukee rallied to take three of four games from the Braves after losing Monday's home opener, and carry some momentum into this weekend's series against the division rival Chicago Cubs at Miller Park."Things can sure change in a hurry and hopefully this gets us rolling," Roenicke said.Martin Prado had a two-run single for Atlanta, which will hold its home opener Friday night after playing its first seven games on the road.Atlanta couldn't muster much run support for starter Tommy Hanson (0-2), who gave up three runs, seven hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. The Braves loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but Alex Gonzalez grounded out to end the inning.The Braves have struggled to score runs consistently on their season-opening road trip."We've run into some pretty good pitching," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You've got to tip your hat to these guys here. This club is able [to], and will, score some runs."Brewers closer John Axford pitched a scoreless ninth to earn saves in back-to-back games after a shaky start to the season.Milwaukee got a better outing the second time around from new starter Shaun Marcum (1-1), who gave up two runs, five hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings.Marcum, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Toronto, wasn't particularly sharp in his first outing as a Brewer, giving up four runs -- three of which were earned -- and five walks while going only 4 2/3 innings and taking the loss in Cincinnati on Saturday."Still struggled with my command a little bit, but other than that, I got fortunate with some pitches that were up in the zone," Marcum said. "They hit some balls right at people."With the game tied at 2 and one out in the second, Morgan put the Brewers back ahead.He doubled and then stole third -- getting such a good jump that there wasn't even a throw -- and then took off for home on a grounder by George Kottaras. Morgan barreled into McCann, who lost the ball, and Morgan doubled back to step on home plate before McCann got the ball back."As a catcher, you just prepare that they're going to run you over," McCann said. "So I was ready for it. I don't know if I had the ball or not."Morgan, who has been criticized for past collisions at the plate before joining the Brewers, said he'll continue to play the game hard."It's part of the game," Morgan said. "It feels good not to get blasted this time around for making a hard play."It was the latest impressive moment as a Brewer for Morgan, acquired in a trade with Washington just before the start of the season. He came into Thursday's game batting .556 and made a pair of impressive plays in the field Thursday.Morgan was filling in for injured right fielder Corey Hart. And when Hart returns from a left oblique strain, Morgan's strong play may challenge incumbent starting center fielder Carlos Gomez for playing time."Just playing my game," Morgan said. "Basically I've been doing this ever since I got called up from playing in the minors and everything. I don't know anything else."
Brewers RHP Zack Greinke made another step toward returning Thursday, throwing a bullpen session before the game. "It was impressive today," Roenicke said. The Brewers' major offseason acquisition cracked a rib playing basketball in the offseason. ... Gonzalez rested 3B Chipper Jones, but he appeared as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. ... Despite tightness in his hamstring, Brewers RHP Takashi Saito is not expected to go on the DL. ... Brewers LHP Dan Merklinger cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Double-A Huntsville.