Triple play, 3 solo shots highlight Brewers' shutout of Dodgers

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers emphatically answered questions about their shaky defense in a playoff race.

Randy Wolf tossed eight effective innings and the NL Central-leading Brewers turned a triple play and four double plays in a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.

"The best thing a team can do is each part of the game that might be lacking that day, pick that part up. We did a great job today. I got in a jam a couple of times ... and they made great plays behind me," Wolf said.

Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart homered for Milwaukee, which has won 17 of 19 and has a six-game lead over second-place St. Louis after the Cardinals lost 6-2 at Pittsburgh.

"If we're pitching well, we're scoring just enough to win, if we happen to not pitch that well, we're scoring a lot of runs. That's what good teams do," Wolf said. "This is the team we've been waiting to have now for a good part of the first half. Lately we've been playing the kind of games we know we can."

Milwaukee threw out two runners at home, including one on the triple play.

In the second, James Loney hit a grounder that second baseman Josh Wilson grabbed up the middle, flipping the ball out of his glove to shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Betancourt threw to Prince Fielder at first and Fielder fired home, where George Kottaras tagged out Matt Kemp.

"You never really plan on those things happening," Kottaras said. "It was really amazing."

Fielder said the good vibes makes him think that this may be a very special season for the Brewers.

"You don't want to get too far ahead," Fielder said. "Some of the things that we've been able to do, it seems like, 'Wow, things are just working out right.' You've got to be thankful for it."

Dodgers starter Ted Lilly (7-13) scattered two hits over seven innings and has seen his last three strong starts end in losses after receiving no run support over his last 21 innings. Lilly retired the first 11 batters until he left an 0-2 pitch hanging to Braun, who homered for the 23rd time this season in the fourth.

In the eighth, Lucroy homered off Scott Elbert and, two batters later, Hart followed with his 18th home run against Mike MacDougal to make it 3-0.

John Axford converted his 32nd consecutive save opportunity and 35th in 37 chances.

"You get a sense they're playing with a lot of confidence on both sides of the baseball, just by watching some of their mannerisms, the way that they go out there and take the field," Lilly said. "There's a reason why they're confident and winning."

Wolf (10-8) dealt with base runners in every inning but the sixth, allowing six hits and five walks. But Milwaukee's defense, considered the weakest part of this team with six weeks left in the season, made several great grabs and all of the routine ones, starting with a double play by Andre Ethier to end the first.

After the second-inning triple play, Milwaukee cut down another runner at the plate in the third. Dioner Navarro doubled and Justin Sellers followed with a single, but center fielder Jerry Hairston Jr. fired home and Kottaras easily tagged out the Dodgers catcher trying to score.

Hairston made an even better play in the fourth. With one on and one out, the 35-year-old journeyman made a diving catch of Kemp's shallow fly ball and then was able to throw out Ethier trying to return to first.

Then in the fifth, Juan Rivera walked to lead off the inning, but Loney hit a grounder to Fielder, who started another double play.

Trailing 1-0, the Dodgers squandered their best shot in the seventh after loading the bases with two outs when Navarro popped up to end the inning.

Axford was the beneficiary of the final double play that ended the game when Rivera hit a liner to Fielder, who caught it and stepped on first to double off Kemp as Milwaukee improved to 45-15 at home this season.

"You find weird ways to win when you're hot," Wolf said. "Right now, we've got to realize we're not always going to be hot, but we've just got to keep on playing well."

Game notes
It was Milwaukee's sixth triple play in history and first since the sixth inning against San Francisco on Sept. 6, 2009. ... Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks (left ankle) took ground balls for the second straight day, but still isn't running the bases or moving laterally. ... Wolf's five walks were a season high. ... In the second of this four-game series on Tuesday night, the Brewers will send RHP Yovani Gallardo (13-8, 3.67 ERA) to face RHP Chad Billingsley (10-9, 4.17). ... The Dodgers had won four straight in Milwaukee and seven of their previous eight before Monday's loss.