PHILADELPHIA — Ryan Braun may be baseball’s biggest villain.
He’s also still one of baseball’s best hitters — on or off steroids.
Braun hit three home runs and knocked in a career-high seven runs to propel the Milwaukee Brewers to a 10-4 victory over the Phillies before 45,061 fans in Philadelphia’s home opener at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday.
Phillies fans lustily booed Braun during pregame introductions and each time he came to the plate to hit.
“I enjoy this atmosphere,” Braun said. “I enjoy this environment. I think it’s motivating for me. As a competitor, I really enjoy it.”
In addition to his home runs, Braun also made a diving catch in right field in the bottom of the second inning. The catch came with the scored tied at one and saved two runs.
“I thought the diving play was a big play,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said, “We had a chance to take a 3-1 lead, maybe more.”
The Phillies (3-4) have lost two straight and allowed a total of seven unearned runs in those two defeats. Philadelphia played without Chase Utley, who missed the game with the flu.
‘The fans were great,” Sandberg said. “They were into it early. It didn’t last.”
Braun, 30, presents fans with a dilemma.
Major League Baseball suspended Braun for 65 games last season because of his involvement in the Biogenesis of America performance-enhancing drug scandal. Braun also tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in the fall of 2011, but he successfully fought the test, claiming his urine sample was mishandled.
Which PED users deserve cheers and which deserve boos?
It apparently depends on the uniform they wear.
On Tuesday, the Philadelphia crowd cheered Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo, who was suspended for 50 games for his involvement in Biogenesis last year. They cheered right fielder Marlon Byrd, who was suspended for 50 games in 2012 for violating baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy. The fans shouted “Chooch” as catcher Carlos Ruiz came to the plate. Baseball suspended Ruiz for the first 25 games of last season for using a Adderall, a banned stimulant.
But the Phillies players with a history of PED transgressions didn’t give the home fans a reason to sustain the cheers. Ruiz and Byrd were combined 1-for-9. Bastardo didn’t pitch.
Meanwhile, Braun’s three-run home run to left field gave the Brewers a 4-1 lead in the top of the third inning. He lined a solo shot to right field to make it 6-1 Milwaukee in the top of the fourth.
The Phillies did not play crisply. Starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick gave up nine hits and walked two in five innings. Philadelphia committed three errors. Kendrick and third baseman Cody Asche both made throwing errors to help the Brewers score four runs in the top of the third inning. Center fielder Ben Revere dropped a fly ball to allow a run to score in the top of the seventh.
Many in the crowd left after seven innings with the Phillies down three runs.
Those who stayed booed Braun again in the top of the eighth. He lined the first pitch of that at-bat into the left field stands for his third home run of the game.
The Brewers (5-2) played in Boston this past weekend, sweeping a three-game series against the Red Sox. Boston fans also booed Braun. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the reception in Philadelphia was worse than Boston. Braun joked a couple of fans in right field were rooting for him.
“I try to use (the booing) to my advantage,” he said. “The more hostile the environment is, the more enjoyable it can be. Here and Boston are two of the most challenging places to come into and win games. I don’t know if I have much of a say on how the fans are going to react. I might as well try to use it to my advantage.”
Braun has been bothered by nerve damage in his right thumb this season. He entered Tuesday with no home runs and a .150 batting average.
“I didn’t think there was any way I would have a day like this,” he said. “The game works in mysterious ways.”
So does the power of boos.
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