MILWAUKEE — Ryan Braun hit two homers, including a solo shot in the eighth inning that bounced off right fielder Nicholas Castellanos’ glove and over the fence, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Detroit Tigers 6-5 on Friday night to keep pace with the NL Central-leading Cubs.
Already assured a playoff spot, the second-place Brewers (93-67) stayed one game back of Chicago after the Cubs beat St. Louis 8-4. But time is running out with just two games left in the regular season.
Braun also hit a solo homer in the first and doubled in the fifth.
He benefited from bad luck in the eighth for Castellanos, who was tracking the high fly to the wall to his left. But the ball bounced off the glove raised over his head, then rolled over the top of the padded fence for a homer off Victor Alcantara (1-1).
Jeremy Jeffress hit leadoff batter Jacoby Jones with a pitch in the forearm to lead off the ninth before retiring the next three Tigers for his 14th save.
The Brewers looked as if they had a crucial win locked up in the top of eighth with normally lights-out reliever Josh Hader on to pitch with a two-run lead.
But pinch-hitter Dawel Lugo turned on a 96 mph inside fastball for a two-run homer to left that tied the game at 5 with nobody out in the eighth. Lugo’s first major league homer came after leadoff hitter Jeimar Candelario was hit by a pitch in a call that stood after a review.
Until then, the night belonged to Christian Yelich, the Brewers’ MVP candidate who hit a two-run homer in the first after reuniting with his brother.
With Milwaukee trailing 3-0, Yelich hit his 34th homer of the season in the bottom of the inning on the first pitch from Jordan Zimmerman after leadoff hitter Lorenzo Cain singled. Three batters later, Braun hit a solo shot to left to tie the game.
The Tigers couldn’t muster any offense for a while after scoring three runs off Zach Davies in the first on three straight RBI singles from Niko Goodrum, Jim Adduci and James McCann.
Davies and two relievers then combined to frustrate the Tigers for the next six innings, retiring 17 in a row during one stretch.
Lugo’s homer off one of the toughest left-handed relievers in baseball gave the Tigers new life.
Joakim Soria (2-1) got the win after getting the last two outs of the eighth in relief of Hader.
The 26-year-old Yelich caught a ceremonial first pitch from his 22-year-old brother, Cameron, who was recently discharged from the Marines. It was the first time that Cameron had watched a big league game in at least a couple years, and the first time he had seen his brother play at Miller Park as a Brewer.
Acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins in January, Christian Yelich has turned into an NL MVP candidate in Milwaukee.
“Super awesome. We haven’t been together in a very long time,” Cameron Yelich said after his four-year enlistment ended just in time to watch his brother play in the final regular-season series of the year.
There is more baseball to come for Milwaukee, which has already clinched at least a wild-card berth.
The Brewers will need to sweep the Tigers and have the Cubs lose at least once over the next two days to have a chance to win the NL Central.
Tigers: OF Christin Stewart missed the game with what manager Ron Gardenhire called “stomach issues.”
Brewers: The latest injury had nothing to do with a player. Owner Mark Attanasio recently underwent successful surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon. Attanasio, who was in attendance on Friday, said he hurt himself running across the beach at Malibu to rescue his family dog after it got tangled up with a pit bull. Attanasio helped his wife, Debbie, separate the two dogs, but said that didn’t realize the extent of his injury. He cannot put any weight on his leg until mid-October.
Tigers: LHP Daniel Norris (0-5) makes his first career appearance against Milwaukee.
Brewers: LHP Wade Miley (5-2) has no record with a 6.19 ERA in three career starts versus Detroit.