MILWAUKEE — After watching his team strand seven runners, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell recited a plan to snap the Brewers out of their funk.
“We’ve just got to make plays,” Counsell said after Milwaukee lost 4-2 to the Atlanta Braves in the opener of a three-game series Monday night at Miller Park.
“That’s what it comes down to.”
Freddie Freeman hit his 25th home run of the season, Max Fried pitched five scoreless innings and the Braves’ relievers hung on for the victory.
Milwaukee has lost five of its past six games and eight of 10. The Brewers are 3-8 in July, dropping them one game above .500 at 48-47.
The win marked the fifth straight for the NL East-leading Braves, who are a season-best 21 games over .500.
One of the more noticeable mistakes by the Brewers came in the fifth inning. Trailing 3-0, rookie second baseman Keston Hiura hit a leadoff double and stole third base. Orlando Arcia followed with a grounder to Fried, who tagged Hiura out in a rundown between third and home.
“(Hiura) got aggressive. It was a tough play because it was on the other side of the pitcher,” Counsell said. “He got over-aggressive.”
Fried (10-4) gave up three hits and struck out five in just 78 pitches. The left-hander is now 2-0 with 11 shutout innings against Milwaukee this year. Luke Jackson pitched the ninth for his 17th save of the season.
Freeman put Atlanta on the board first in the fourth with a three-run homer to center field. The blast scored Ronald Acuña Jr. and Darby Swanson after each reached on a base hit.
The Braves improved to a major league-best 40-17 since manager Brian Snitker moved Acuña to the top of the order on May 10.
Brewers right-hander Adrian Houser (2-4) fell to 0-4 as a starter this season after allowing four earned runs on eight hits in six innings.
Ryan Braun hit his 13th home run of the season in the sixth and Hiura brought home the Brewers’ other run on a deep drive to center that fell just beyond the outstretched glove of Acuña. The RBI triple pulled Milwaukee to within 3-2.
Austin Riley singled on a fly ball off Braun’s glove in the seventh, scoring Ozzie Albies.
Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich had two hits and added a stolen base, his 22nd of the season.
“Look, two runs isn’t enough,” Counsell said. “When you’ve got a runner on third, you’ve got to get him in. That’s part of making plays.”
Gio takes the mound
Brewers left-hander Gio Gonzalez pitched 4⅔ innings, allowed one run on five hits and struck out four in a rehab start for Class AAA San Antonio. Gonzalez also surrendered a home run in the start against Nashville.
The two-time All-Star hasn’t pitched for the Brewers since being placed on injured list June 1 with left arm fatigue.
Burnes heads to IL
Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes (right shoulder irritation) was placed on the 10-day injured list.
Burnes (1-5), who suffered his fifth loss of the season Sunday after allowing four earned runs on four hits while facing just four batters, said his shoulder was bothering him for four or five days but Sunday was the first day he felt it while on the mound.
Counsell said he doesn’t believe Burnes’ injury is serious but said he’ll shut him down for what he doubts will be a long time.
Milwaukee recalled righty Burch Smith from Class AAA San Antonio to take Burnes’ roster spot.
Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff (10-3, 3.67 ERA) will face right-hander Bryse Wilson (1-0, 6.14) today.
Woodruff lost his last start July 4 in Cincinnati after allowing just one earned run in six innings. Wilson will be recalled from Class AAA Gwinnett.