Ryan Braun is right at home in Brew City

It's fitting how Ryan Braun's game tends to percolate when playing within the friendly confines of Miller Park.

Take Braun from the land of beer and the Milwaukee Brewers star left fielder is as irrelevant as the Bucks come playoff time in recent seasons. That may be a bit crude for both Braun and the Bucks, but the numbers don't lie.

The Brew Crew just went 5-2 on a seven-game road trip in which Braun compiled a .231 batting average with a home run and five RBI. Those numbers are average at best for a perennial stud striving for his fourth straight starting nod on the National League's All-Star roster.

Known to many as the "Hebrew Hammer," Braun's numbers appear to take a sabbatical when the Brewers depart the Badger State. In 32 road games this season, Braun is hitting a respectable .269 with five homers and 14 runs batted in. He has more at-bats on the road (119) and his .454 slugging percentage in enemy stadiums is way off from his .693 SLG at Miller Park.

Braun did earn the hero moniker on Friday in south Florida, as his pinch-hit two-run homer in the ninth inning lifted the Brewers to victory and set the stage for a four-game sweep of the homestanding Marlins. It was also Braun's first career homer in a pinch role.

"I doubt I've ever hit a pinch-hit home run," Braun told the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel after he earned a day off because of a balky shoulder.
"There's no routine, no preparation. Just go up there and bat."

Braun seems to follow his own notion more closely when digging in at the batter's box in Miller Park. Braun, who has appeared in all 60 games this season, hit .400 (12-for-30) with four RBI and five doubles in Milwaukee's recent nine-game homestand in which the club went 8-1. Whether it's opposing pitchers getting intimidated by the home fans or just the natural comfort level, April's National League Player of the Month is right at home.

In 28 games in Milwaukee, Braun is batting .356 with eight blasts and 29 runs batted in. He began beefing up those numbers by reaching base over the season's initial 28 games -- the longest streak in team history to begin a campaign, eclipsing Hall of Famer Robin Yount's 23-gamer in 1983. If Braun's numbers both home and away stay at this pace, he could join Yount in Cooperstown, New York a decade or more from now.

Braun's already a fan favorite and has surged into the lead among NL players aiming for a starting nod in July's All-Star Game. Braun passed Cardinals favorite and NL Central-rival Albert Pujols for the lead and has received 1,588,342 votes. Teammates Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder are also trying to make the roster for the Mid-summer Classic. Fielder's presence alone in the Milwaukee lineup has enabled Braun to become a better hitter.

"For me, I just enjoy being able to see one of the best players in baseball compete every day," Braun said of Fielder. "Prince is an unbelievable competitor, and he's been instrumental in my development as a player. I feel fortunate to have him hitting behind me."

Thanks to the presence of Fielder, Braun is on the verge of a few career milestones in home runs, RBI and runs scored. He is nine homers away from 150, 37 shy of 500 RBI and 60 runs from 500. The recipient of a five-year contract extension through 2020 back in April, Braun will lead the Brewers Tuesday in the opener of a six-game homestand versus the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals.

There will most likely be several spectators attending their first Brewers game during that six-day stretch, hoping to catch a glimpse of what makes Braun so great with the home crowd in his corner.

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