BEFORE THE giant American flag was undraped, before Steve Carlton and Jamie Moyer shared the mound for the ceremonial first pitch, and before the national anthem was sung in front of a sellout crowd, the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies were paraded onto the field at Citizens Bank Park.
They made their way from 10th Street to Ashburn Alley, slapping hands with fans as they walked onto a temporary staircase attached to the centerfield fence. The Phillies’ ceremonial home opener parade was nearly over, but the hit parade they’d take part in with the Milwaukee Brewers was just about to begin.
And the home team was ill-equipped with its best hitter already sent home sick.
After manager Ryne Sandberg sent a flu-ridden Chase Utley home hours before his team took batting practice, Ryan Braun flexed his power muscles and brought out the boobirds as the Brewers played party pooper in a 10-4 win Tuesday.
Braun launched three home runs, including a three-run shot in the third inning that gave Milwaukee a 4-1 lead. The Brewers never trailed again.
“The fans were great, over 45,000, and they were into it early,” Sandberg said. ”[But] that didn’t last too long. We didn’t really have an answer for Ryan Braun.”
The 10-year-old South Philly ballpark is apparently a personal playground for Braun. Following yesterday’s game, Braun is batting .405 with 10 home runs and 21 RBI (seven yesterday) in 20 career games at Citizens Bank Park.
Overall, Braun is hitting .392 with 17 home runs, a 1.174 OPS, 37 RBI and 35 runs scored in 44 career games vs. the Phillies.
“Obviously, this ballpark is good to hit in,” Braun said. “That’s pretty well-documented.”
Yesterday’s trio of home runs were Braun’s first since he served a 65-game suspension last year for use of a performance-enhancing drug. Braun’s suspension last summer came more than a year after he vehemently denied using previously; he had filed a grievance that resulted in a positive test from Oct. 11, 2011, getting overturned.
After being booed in Boston over the weekend, Braun arrived to a similarly hostile environment in Philadelphia. He was booed during the pregame lineup introductions, and the sound and volume of those boos only increased just before public-address announcer Dan Baker read his name before Braun’s first plate appearance in the first inning.
“I love it,” Braun said of the nonstop booing. “It’s great. Seriously, as a competitor I really enjoy it ... It’s a long season and playing in an environment and atmosphere like this is certainly motivating.”
Before Braun’s theatrics at the plate began, he helped stunt the Phillies’ offense in the field.
With the game tied, 1-1, entering the bottom of the second, Cody Asche worked a leadoff walk off Kyle Lohse and Jimmy Rollins followed later with a two-out walk, giving Carlos Ruiz a premium RBI spot. But Ruiz’ sinking line drive to rightfield was stabbed by a diving Braun.
“It was huge,” Ryan Howard said. “Obviously, it kind of changed the momentum. That ball gets down, or gets past him, two runs possibly score on that. And then we also have an opportunity to get even more. He just had a great game all around.”
In his second start of the season, Kyle Kendrick was on the receiving end on two of Braun’s blasts. Kendrick, who had allowed one run on five hits in seven innings of a no-decision a week ago in Texas, said his command was off and a strong-hitting Brewers team took advantage.
Nine of the Brewers’ 15 hits came off Kendrick in his five innings.
“I was up,” Kendrick said. “Usually, when you’re up in the zone a lot, you’re going to have a chance of getting hit. Just up in the zone today. And behind in some counts.”
Kendrick thought he made a good pitch to Braun on his first home run: It was a 1-2 sinker down and in.
But Braun deposited the ball into the leftfield bleachers.
He launched his second an inning later, also off Kendrick, the opposite way, into the rightfield seats. Braun completed his hat trick off Brad Lincoln in the eighth, this time sending a souvenir to the folks with tickets beyond the fence in left-center.
Braun’s second three-run shot of the game tied a personal best, with three home runs in a game, set a career mark (and tied the Brewers’ franchise record) with seven RBI, and upped Milwaukee’s lead to 10-4.
Braun entered the day with only three hits — all singles — in his first five games.
“I don’t know if you could say he was struggling — he’s still a pretty good hitter,” Kendrick said. “You got to make some quality pitches to him. Obviously, today was his day.”
The Phillies didn’t help themselves, either. They made three errors, two in a third inning that saw Milwaukee bat around and score four times.
”[Milwaukee] bounced back with our sloppy defense,” Sandberg said. “Overall, the story of the game was we didn’t execute in a lot of ways.”
On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21