Santana’s bat leads Brewers to series finale win over Braves

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers finished off the Atlanta Braves series Sunday afternoon with a 4-3 win behind the big bat of outfielder Domingo Santana.

Santana was responsible for all four Milwaukee runs, using home runs in the fifth and sixth innings to get the job done. Prior to Sunday’s contest, Santana had been in a slump at the plate, collecting just one hit in his previous seven games.

“He made a difference in this game,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He drove the bus offensively for sure. To break out in a game is one thing, but in a game where you’re doing a lot of the damage…that’s a satisfying feeling. It puts the struggles behind him, hopefully.”

But it wasn’t just Santana that impacted the game’s outcome. Matt Garza picked up his first win of the season, striking out seven Braves batters, while allowing three earned runs in 6.2 innings on the mound. His control was good enough to avoid walking a single batter.

Trouble came in the sixth inning for the Brewers, with outfielder Ryan Braun exiting the game with a right trapezius strain. It’s the same kind of injury endured by catcher Andrew Susac in spring training that caused him to start the season in the disabled list.

Milwaukee ends the first month of the season 13-13 while splitting the home stand. They’ll hit the road for a seven-game stretch, starting with four games in St. Louis.

Bucks move into tie for fifth place with win over Hawks

MILWAUKEE — The BMO Harris Bradley Center crowd started chanting “Fear the Deer!” as the Milwaukee Bucks downed the Atlanta Hawks 100-97 Friday night, moving into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s performance was part of the reason for the celebration as he logged his second straight double double with 34 points and 13 rebounds. Malcolm Brogdon added 14 points and seven assists to give Milwaukee its 11th victory in 13 outings.

”It was a playoff-type game. Everybody is fighting for pole position,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.

Milwaukee led by as many as 13 before Atlanta went on a 13-2 run in the second quarter to trim the deficit to two by halftime. But 17 turnovers wreaked havoc on the Hawks’ efforts to establish offensive continuity in the game. Atlanta did win the rebounding battle 49-35.

The Hawks had a late opportunity to send it to overtime, with former Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova taking a contested three-pointer with less than a second remaining. It clanged off the rim to encapsulate what’s been a difficult stretch for the Hawks.

Atlanta has now lost six in a row and is forced to share its fifth-place standing with Milwaukee — a team fighting for a playoff spot with 10 games remaining. The Bucks host the Bulls on Sunday afternoon, having won all three previous meetings this season.

Falcons beat Packers, advance to Super Bowl LI

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons are moving on to Super Bowl LI in Houston after defeating the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the final game held at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons marched 75 yards down the field on their opening possession to score on a short shovel pass to Mohamed Sanu. The Packers were unable to answer on the ensuing possession, with Mason Crosby missing a 41-yard field goal. That ended his NFL-best 23-game streak of consecutive converted postseason field goals.

Atlanta faced little resistance on their second drive of the game, getting inside Green Bay’s 10-yard line before a holding penalty on third down forced them into a field goal attempt, where Ryan was good from 28 yards.

The second quarter started to look like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense were on the path to points, but fullback Aaron Ripkowski’s longest rush of the season ended in the red zone, fumbling the ball and getting recovered by the Falcons in their own end zone.

Things went from bad to worse when Atlanta’s Matt Ryan decided to do the damage with his legs. In the middle of the second quarter, he rushed for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Falcons on top 17-0. They didn’t have their first punt until 3:17 remaining in the first half.

Rodgers tried to rally the troops after that punt and get points before halftime, but a sack on second down set Green Bay up with a long third down deep in their own territory. Trying to make something happen, Rodgers fired deep down the middle of the field where the ball was intercepted.

Green Bay would pay for that mistake, as Ryan and the Atlanta offense marched down the field to score a five-yard touchdown to Julio Jones just before the intermission. The soon-to-be MVP had 271 yards and two touchdown passes in the first half.

The Packers got the ball to start the second half, hoping to mount the largest comeback in NFC Championship game history. Instead, a pair of drops by tight end Jared Cook led to an early punt and the Falcons capitalized once again. Ryan hit Julio Jones for his second touchdown of the game, this time from 73 yards out.

It took until the 9:19 mark in the third quarter for the Packers to get on the board, with Rodgers connecting with Davante Adams for a two-yard touchdown. But once again, Atlanta marched down the field for another score, this time a four-yard grab by running back Devonta Freeman.

Rodgers got another shot at points, however, hooking up with Jordy Nelson for a short touchdown late in the third quarter. Atlanta would recover the ensuing onside kick, eventually scoring another rushing touchdown to extend the lead.

With less than seven minutes left in the game, Rodgers hit Jared Cook for a score, but the two-point conversion failed and Green Bay trailed 21-44.

Hot shooting lifts Hawks over Bucks

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks topped the Milwaukee Bucks 111-98 on Sunday, shooting 50 percent from three-point range compared to their opponents’ 31.6 percent.

The Bucks’ leading scorer was Giannis Antetokounmpo with 33 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. The next closest was Greg Monroe, who provided 13 off the bench. But it was the concerns from beyond the arc that cost Milwaukee the game. Rookie Malcolm Brogdon was their top shooter, converting on 2-of-3 (66.7 percent) of his attempts.

Kent Bazemore and Mike Dunleavy paced Atlanta with 24 and 20 points, respectively. Dunleavy was dealt to the Hawks from the Cavaliers last week; a decision he wasn’t happy with at the time.

”At this point in my career, the biggest thing is to win, and that hasn’t changed from the last team I was on to this team,” Dunleavy said. ”I’m just glad we’re in a good spot, No. 4 in the East with a chance to get home court in the playoffs.”

The Bucks have lost three of their last five games but return home Monday afternoon to host the Philadelphia 76ers at 2:30 p.m.

Matthews, Montgomery, Cobb inactive vs Falcons

ATLANTA — Packers linebacker Clay Matthews joins receivers Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb as key players who will sit out Green Bay’s week eight contest against the Atlanta Falcons.

Montgomery’s absence adds to an already limited receiving corps, missing Randall Cobb due to a hamstring issue that popped up during practice this week.

Don Jackson and Knile Davis will carry the load in the backfield for the Packers, but Montgomery and Cobb were complement pieces while Jackson and Davis get more comfortable with the offense.

The entire inactive list includes:

WR Randall Cobb
CB Damarious Randall
CB Quinten Rollins
RB James Starks
LB Clay Matthews
WR Ty Montgomery
TE Jared Cook