Slumping Braun looks lost

Wednesday seemed like a good day to rest Ryan Braun.

As it was, the Brewers' all-star leftfielder got much of the game off.

Mired in the worst slump of his career, Braun remained in the lineup against San Francisco mainly because of past numbers (.462, two home runs) against two-time defending Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, according to manager Ken Macha. But past numbers mean little when you're lost at the plate.

Braun continued to look lost, striking out on pitches out of the strike zone in two at-bats before being removed by Macha in the fourth inning with the Giants on top, 11-1. He exited with a season-low .286 batting average.

Macha did make the noteworthy move of elevating Braun to the No. 3 spot in the lineup that he filled earlier in the season as well as much of his four seasons with the Brewers. Three weeks ago, Macha flipped Prince Fielder and Braun in the lineup, hoping to get Fielder going with Braun batting behind him.

Fielder did hit home runs more frequently after that switch, but Braun went into a deep slump. In 28 games overall in the cleanup spot, including appearances earlier in the season, Braun was batting .219 with three home runs and 18 RBI. In 51 games batting third, he had a .338 batting average with eight homers and 33 RBI.

Asked if the re-flipping would last more than one game, Macha said, "I'm not quite sure yet. I've talked to him a bunch of times and he said it doesn't matter to him.

"He kind of feels what he's doing wrong. I gave him my observation. He kind of does his own thing as far as maintaining his swing.

"He does like hitting third. He's got some numbers against this guy, so let's try to get as many positives into his head as we can. He's a positive guy anyhow."

Staying positive has been a challenge for Braun during this skid, which began before Macha dropped him to the cleanup spot. Since June 1, Braun is batting .239.

But many of Braun's offensive numbers are freakish. He leads the league with a .352 batting average on the road yet is batting a mere .210 at home. And, unlike past seasons when he took apart left-handed pitching, Braun is batting .237 against southpaws.

Braun was hitting .324 in night games but only .228 in day games.

"That's baseball," he said. "You just keep going. It's a weird game at times." As for whether he'd prefer to bat third, Braun said, "I don't concern myself with those things because that's not my decision. I didn't request this."

Like most hitters mired in deep slumps, Braun has been missing mistake pitches and hacking at bad pitches as well. Hitting coach Dale Sveum said the major challenge becomes mental, not physical.

"He hasn't had a slump like this his whole life, I'm sure," said Sveum. "This is when you see what you're made of. Nobody said life is easy, especially when it comes to hitting. He hasn't had too many bad stretches."

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