By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) — The return of Ronald Acuña Jr. to the leadoff spot has helped to spark Atlanta’s offense.
A barrage of home runs also makes a difference.
Max Fried allowed two hits in six scoreless innings, Dansby Swanson hit a drought-breaking, three-run homer and the Braves beat the Milwaukee Brewers 12-8 Friday night in a matchup of second-place teams.
Swanson, Josh Donaldson and Tyler Flowers hit home runs off right-hander Corbin Burnes in a nine-run sixth inning — the most runs in an inning by the Braves in 10 years. Freddie Freeman homered and drove in two runs.
Acuña had three hits, drove in three runs and scored two runs. The Braves have averaged almost seven runs and are 6-1 since moving Acuña back to the leadoff spot, where he flourished in 2018 as a rookie.
“I think it allows speed to play a little bit more,” Swanson said of the Braves’ new lineup.
Acuña’s hustle paid off in the first inning when he kept running for a double when Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain had a lackadaisical approach to the ball in shallow center field. Acuña moved to third on Swanson’s fly ball to right field and scored on Freeman’s grounder to second base.
Fried (6-2) had five strikeouts and walked two batters against a Brewers offense that had scored a combined 22 runs in three straight wins over Philadelphia.
“That was a good test for him,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker, who decided to pull the left-hander after he reached base twice in the long sixth inning.
Fried walked and doubled in the sixth. “I love it,” he said when asked about his rare offensive highlight.
Burnes, who was removed from the rotation following early struggles, has allowed 14 homers in 27 1/3 innings.
“Poorly located fastballs are going to be a problem, yeah,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
“Tonight he did not throw the ball well, the first time in five or six outings. We’ve got to be better than that, there’s no question about it. But we’ll give him another chance, yeah.”
The Braves led 12-0 before three relievers gave up eight runs in three innings.
Swanson ended a 0-for-17 slump with his homer into the left-field seats. Flowers’ two-run shot knocked Burnes out of the game. Burnes allowed seven runs on five hits — including three homers — and two walks while recording only two outs.
Jacob Nottingham homered and drove in four runs for the Brewers, who began the night a half-game behind Chicago in the NL Central.
The Braves, chasing Philadelphia in the NL East, have won three straight.
Freeman’s homer off Jhoulys Chacin in the third traveled 433 feet before hitting the front of a restaurant behind the first section of right-field seats.
Chacin (3-5) allowed three runs in five innings.
Atlanta led 12-0 before Josh Tomlin gave up four runs in two innings. Nottingham hit a two-run homer off Tomlin in the eighth.
Ryan Braun had a two-run single off Jonny Venters in the ninth, and Nottingham added a two-run single off Wes Parsons. Luke Jackson recorded the final out for his sixth save.
Brewers RHP Jimmy Nelson (right shoulder) could be moving closer to his first start in the majors since Sept. 8, 2017. Nelson gave up three hits in 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a minor league rehab start for Triple-A San Antonio. He missed the 2018 season while recovering from shoulder surgery.
ROOKIE ON A ROLL
Braves rookie left fielder Austin Riley had two singles, giving him six hits in three games since he was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett. The six hits matches Milt Thompson (1984), Yunel Escobar (2007) and Acuña (2018) for Atlanta’s best start through three games by a rookie.
PEREZ THE PITCHER
Hernán Perez, who started at third base, became Milwaukee’s first position player to pitch this season. The scoreless eighth, despite two walks, was his fifth career appearance on the mound, including three in 2018.
The nine-run sixth was the Braves’ biggest inning since also scoring nine in the fourth against Colorado on May 20, 2009. The Braves sent 13 batters to the plate against Burnes and Jacob Barnes in the inning.
Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (right middle finger) is expected to come off the injured list to start Saturday night’s game. Anderson (2-0, 3.20) was placed on the IL on May 1.
Braves: RHP Kevin Gausman (2-3, 4.50) allowed one run in eight innings in winning his only career start against the Brewers in 2018.