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Braves beat Brewers 9-2, complete 3-game sweep

MILWAUKEE — The Atlanta Braves found a familiar way to beat up the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brooks Conrad homered, doubled and drove in four runs while subbing for injured Chipper Jones, and the Braves roughed up Milwaukee's bullpen once again for a 9-2 win Wednesday and a three-game sweep.

"You need to have confidence and get a little swagger back," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

The Braves, a team not known for their potent hitting this season, outscored the Brewers 28-7 in the series.

Another late-game outburst by the Braves squandered a solid start by Yovani Gallardo and continued the Brewers' woes at home. They are 4-11 at Miller Park this season — and after a day off Thursday, the Phillies are coming to town.

"I don't think anybody can explain why we've been having a tough time getting wins at home," Casey McGehee said. "We've got to figure out something."

The bullpen is a prime suspect, at least in this series. All three games were close early, only to turn into blowouts.

"It's been a little bit of an epidemic here, throughout the series," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "It's not just one or two guys."

But it hasn't helped that starters are having trouble going deep into games, wearing Brewers relievers down.

Macha said he asked closer Trevor Hoffman on Wednesday morning if the veteran closer needed to pitch an inning after getting little work of late. Hoffman said yes — not for his own benefit, but because the rest of the bullpen is so worn down.

It showed again Wednesday.

Gallardo left after pitching the top of the sixth, and the Brewers tied the game at 2-all in the bottom half of the inning.

The Braves then jumped all over Brewers relievers, scoring a total of seven runs in the final three innings. It looked a lot like the previous two games, when the Braves turned close games into blowouts.

Jason Heyward hit a hard shot off first baseman Prince Fielder's glove for a go-ahead double in the seventh inning.

"But it wasn't just that we scored, it was that we scored often," said Matt Diaz, whose pinch-hit double set up Atlanta's two-run seventh inning.

Conrad hit a two-run homer in the eighth and two-run double off Hoffman in the ninth. Jones, who is trying to shake off a nagging groin injury, appeared as a pinch-hitter in the ninth and hit an RBI double.

"It's sure nice to bounce back the way we did this series," Conrad said. "We got the bats alive and some great pitching."

Derek Lowe (5-3) was untouchable early on, holding the Brewers hitless through the first four innings before allowing a leadoff single to McGehee in the fifth.

Lowe said he threw more changeups Wednesday than he had all year, and he is abandoning his past philosophy of pitching mostly away from hitters.

"I needed to try new things and today was the first day," Lowe said. "It was a lot better."

Gallardo pitched a strong six innings, giving up two runs and five hits despite being hit hard in the left leg by a batted ball in the fourth inning.

A shot off the bat of Heyward smacked into Gallardo's leg just above his ankle. After being briefly examined by the Brewers' medical staff, he threw a few warmup pitches and stayed in the game. Gallardo said his ankle was "a little sore" afterward but it didn't really affect his pitching.

And Gallardo said the Brewers' starters are aware that the bullpen is getting worn out.

"Obviously, the deeper we go into games, the better," Gallardo said. "And we're all trying to do that."

Despite the sweep, McGehee said the Brewers aren't panicking.

"We've got enough guys with enough backbone to not roll over and die," McGehee said. "We're going to keep fighting. We'll figure this thing out."

NOTES: Milwaukee OF Ryan Braun (elbow) sat out. He is expected back in the lineup after an off day Thursday. ... Braves manager Bobby Cox said shortstop Yunel Escobar is preparing to return from a leg injury and will likely play for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday before returning Saturday. ... Fielder was charged with an error in the eighth.