Ryan Braun homers as Brewers win team-record 55th home game

MILWAUKEE -- Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun are both strong MVP candidates for the Milwaukee Brewers. Fielder thinks Braun is putting together the more compelling case.

"MVP year," Fielder said. "He's been outstanding. Batting title possibly, the home runs, stolen bases, RBIs. He's done magnificent."

Braun homered and raised his NL-best batting average to .333, lifting the Brewers to a team-record 55th victory at home, 9-5 over the Florida Marlins on Sunday.

"This is a special year, man," Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan said. "I don't want to say too much yet, but yeah, special. Really special."

Every position player had a hit for the NL Central champions before the first out of the third as Milwaukee swept the season series from the Marlins (7-0) for the first time since 1998.

Milwaukee scored three in the second and four in the third before Braun's opposite-field solo shot in the fourth. The sellout crowd again serenaded him with chants of "M-V-P" as it did throughout a memorable weekend.

Braun finished 2 for 3 before leaving after the fifth and leads Mets shortstop Jose Reyes (.331) for the batting title. No Brewers or Mets player has ever won the crown.

"He's the MVP of the league," Morgan said. "Hopefully, (Friday) kind of locked it up for him. I hope that really locked it up. I think it really showed that he should be the MVP."

On Friday, Braun's three-run homer in the eighth inning led Milwaukee to a 4-1 victory and its first division title since winning the AL East in 1982. On Saturday, he drove in two runs as the Brewers rallied from three deficits for a 6-4 win.

In this one, Braun singled and scored in the four-run third before hitting his 33rd homer off reliever Brian Sanches to give Milwaukee an 8-1 lead in the fourth.

"With him, it's plate discipline," manager Ron Roenicke said. "When he's disciplined and swinging at strikes, there's no place to get him out."

Braun has 110 RBIs and a 30-30 season with 31 stolen bases. Fielder is hitting .293 with 35 homers and 114 RBIs.

Braun, Fielder and Rickie Weeks all left the game in the later innings as Roenicke works to give his starters as much rest as he can before the postseason.

"I'm going to keep playing," Fielder said. "Playing every day means a lot to me. Plus, we've got two days off before the playoffs. Nothing's hurt on me. It's not like I'll feel any different."

The Brewers have won seven of nine and need to finish with a better record than NL West champion Arizona to secure home-field advantage in the first round.

Playing at home is especially important to the Brewers.

Milwaukee is a major league-best 55-23 at Miller Park, topping the 1978 club's 54-27 mark at County Stadium.

"We know how important that is," Brewers starter Chris Narveson said. "We want to end it strong at home."

The Brewers finish the regular season against Pittsburgh beginning Monday and are 36-3 at home against the Pirates over the last five seasons.

"They're definitely top five (in baseball), especially in this ballpark," Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco said. "The ball flies. They've got the adrenaline. They've got the fans. It makes all the difference in the world."

The Marlins hope for that atmosphere starting next season when they move into a new retractable-roof ballpark. Florida finished 40-41 on the road and returns home to play Washington in cavernous Sun Life Stadium for the final time.

Emilio Bonifacio led off the game with a homer against Narveson (11-8) for the switch-hitter's second home run in as many days and first in 390 career right-handed at-bats. Donnie Murphy added a fifth-inning homer that made it 8-2.

Narveson worked into the seventh in his longest outing since July 31 before Omar Infante's two-run double off Kameron Loe made it 8-4. The Brewers added a run in the bottom of the inning and the Marlins answered in the eighth.

Nolasco (10-12) didn't get much defensive help.

The Brewers hit three consecutive RBI singles in the second that all barely left the infield following third baseman Matt Dominguez's error to take a 3-1 lead.

Milwaukee scored four more in the third inning to make it 7-1, chasing Nolasco on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s run-scoring double. Yuniesky Betancourt's RBI single off Sandy Rosario gave every Brewers starter a hit before the first out in the third.

"Once the team starts struggling, everything gets exposed," Nolasco said. "We can't sit here and blame anything on anything or anybody."

Game notes
Brewers 3B Casey McGehee had a day off after a 1-for-31 slump. Roenicke said "good question" when asked whether McGehee will be the starter when the playoffs begin. He said the Brewers are in the process of evaluating it. ... The Brewers will use potential NLDS Game 1 starter RHP Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.31 ERA) against Pirates RHP Charlie Morton (10-10, 3.67) on Monday. ... The Marlins, to be renamed the Miami Marlins on Nov. 11, will start RHP Anibal Sanchez (8-9, 3.67) against Nationals LHP Tommy Milone (1-0, 3.32) in Monday night's opener.

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