For those wondering if Ryan Braun can keep the same pace he had in 2011 en route to the National League MVP award, he is doing so nicely.
Through 61 games last season, Braun was batting .302 with 12 home runs, 43 RBI, a .396 OBP and .554 slugging percentage. Through 61 games in 2012 entering Sunday, he was batting .322 with 19 homers, 47 RBI, a .399 on-base percentage and .635 slugging percentage.
Because Braun's failed drug test last October became public, even though he beat the rap on appeal, and because Prince Fielder no longer is around to bat behind him, many figured the star leftfielder would scuffle this season. At the very least, the thought was that opponents would not pitch to him as much.
"I think the guys hitting behind him have been good," said manager Ron Roenicke, who has mostly used third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the cleanup spot behind Braun.
"There's no way I'm going to pitch around Ryan all the time to get to Ramirez. No way. You can use that argument last year with Prince. Casey (McGehee) had an off year last year (batting behind Fielder) and they still pitched to Prince.
"I know everybody thinks it's easy to pitch around people but it's not that easy to pitch around people. Every time you do it, you worry about that next guy coming up there. And every time you put people on base, we've got a chance to score. And you turn the lineup over faster. So, it's not an automatic.
"If Barry Bonds is up there, OK. That's definitely a guy you pitch around. You don't pitch around him; you just walk him."
Braun was hobbled a few weeks ago by an ailing Achilles' tendon and hip but recovered enough to get red-hot at the plate. He extended his hitting streak to 12 games Sunday.
"Ryan is like anybody else," said Roenicke. "They go through their stretches where they get hot. He certainly doesn't get as cold as most people. When he's got his swing going, it doesn't matter too much who's pitching against him. He can hit the best pitchers."