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SD@MIL: Maldonado crushes his first career grand slam

MILWAUKEE -- A day after the Brewers sealed a winning season, their rookies made it a winning final series.

With most of Milwaukee's regulars on the bench for the season's penultimate game, Tyler Thornburg pitched four promising innings, Martin Maldonado hit a grand slam and the Brewers made that one big hit hold up for a 4-3 win on Tuesday at Miller Park.

The Brewers will try to finish 2012 with a sweep when the teams meet again on Wednesday night in the season finale.

Expect a more standard lineup for that game. On Tuesday, the Brewers employed 10 rookies, including seven of the team's nine starters, in the type of game fans might have seen a lot of in Milwaukee had the team not made its surprise surge into contention.

"We joked before the game that it was Nashville Sounds Day," said winning pitcher Jim Henderson.

Henderson had no idea when he high-fived with teammates that he had just logged his first Major League victory. Because Thornburg did not last five innings, it was up to longtime official scorer Tim O'Driscoll to pick the "most effective" reliever, and he tabbed Henderson because he'd held a one-run lead in the seventh inning.

Henderson found out when he glanced at a clubhouse television and saw his name in the box score.

"I thought it was false myself. It was a bit of a surprise because [Brandon] Kintzler pitched the fifth," said Henderson, referring to -- you guessed it -- another rookie. "The official scorer was looking out for me, I guess."

It was a nice parting gift for a 29-year-old who made it to the Majors this season after pitching 10 years in the Minor Leagues.

Thornburg, who turned 24 over the weekend, did not have to wait nearly as long, though he had been essentially on standby while the Brewers made their surprise surge into postseason contention. Pitching for the first time since Sept. 22 and starting for the first time since Sept. 2 at Triple-A Nashville, he allowed only one run on four hits in four innings -- with no walks and no home runs, notably -- before hitting his pitch limit.

Thornburg threw 51 pitches.

"I pulled him because we didn't want to get him up in pitch count too high," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Certainly, he was throwing the ball well and he was efficient with his pitches, but he hadn't thrown in 10 days ... and he wasn't 'stretched out.' We didn't want to do anything to take a chance with him."

Said Thornburg: "I was sitting in there, hoping they'd let me go back out and try to get the win. Not my decision."

The team's win made it worthwhile.

"Really happy with a good outing to end it," Thornburg said.

The Brewers took the lead in the third inning as another rookie, catcher Maldonado, connected on his first career grand slam. It followed a one-out infield single by rookie Norichika Aoki, and two-out walks issued to relative old-timers Ryan Braun and Travis Ishikawa.

"It's one of those things where I've got to execute a pitch and I didn't," losing pitcher Anthony Bass said. "I don't like walks. Free passes tend to score and I knew that it would come back to haunt me. And it did."

Maldonado's slam gave the Brewers a 4-0 lead, but the Padres made things interesting. They scored a run off Thornburg in the fourth inning on Will Venable's two-out RBI single, and added two more in the sixth that were charged to Brewers left-hander Manny Parra, who faced four hitters and did not retire any of them.

Parra surrendered a run-scoring single to Jesus Guzman before hitting Venable to load the bases and prompt a call for Kameron Loe, who induced what would have been an inning-ending double play on a Chris Denorfia comebacker had Loe been able to make an accurate toss home. Instead, his throw was wide and Maldonado had to tag the runner coming home for only one out, and John Baker followed with an infield hit to third base that cut the Brewers' lead to 4-3.

The Padres could have had more on that hit had rookie third baseman Taylor Green not made a terrific diving backhanded stop to prevent the baseball from rolling to the left-field corner. Loe retired pinch-hitter Carlos Quentin to strand three runners and preserve the lead.

Henderson, Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford closed out the final three innings for the second straight night. Axford recorded the final out with runners at first and third for his 35th save.

The Brewers had a chance to break the game open in the seventh inning, when they loaded the bases with one out. Padres reliever Brad Boxberger retired pinch-hitter Carlos Gomez on an infield popup and struck out Braun, who missed a chance to overtake the Padres' Chase Headley for the National League lead in RBIs. Headley leads, 113-112, entering Wednesday.

"That always worries me when we have an opportunity and don't score anybody," Roenicke said. "But guys in the bullpen have been doing their job, and they were great again today."

Roenicke has been in much higher spirits the past two nights than he was over the weekend, when the Brewers were formally eliminated from the postseason chase by dropping two of three games to the last-place Astros.

"I don't know why we played that series the way we did," Roenicke said. "I think [playing well to end the season] is important. I know Brauny talked to me before the game and he still wants to win as many games as he can."

Rickie Weeks and Aramis Ramirez will rejoin Braun in the starting lineup for Wednesday's season finale. Corey Hart will not play, Roenicke said, because of his left foot injury.

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