Just when it looked as if they were about to wedge themselves into the upper echelon of the National League Central, the Cincinnati Reds go myopic in Milwaukee.
They lost Saturday night, 2-0, to the Milwaukee Brewers and gathered five hits.
And the way the game ended said it all on a frustrating night when nearly every ball they hit hard landed in a defender’s glove.
They trailed by two runs entering the ninth with the filet mignon of their lineup coming to bat — Todd Frazier, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips.
Milwaukee closer Jim Henderson struck out all three and all three went down swinging on balls outside the strike zone.
There was an early indicator that it might be a long night against Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo, who came off the disabled list to make his first start in 19 days.
He went to 3-and-2 on the first three batters he faced and not one reached base. Shin-Soo Choo lined out to third and Frazier and Votto then struck out.
Gallardo went on to retire the first 11 and only one ball was hit out of the infield — a fly to the warning track by pitcher Mat Latos.
He walked Votto on 3-and-2 with two outs in the fourth and Brandon Phillips singled. Then came another of those never-ending base-running gaffes.
Gallardo threw a pitch in the dirt that rolled away from catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Votto broke from second, then thought better of it and stopped. Phillips had fled toward second, and when Votto stopped he was hung up between first and second and chased down in a rundown.
Ryan Ludwick snared his first hit of the year with one out in the fifth, an infield roller to deep second, but Zack Cozart hit into a 1-6-3 double play.
The dagger to the aorta came in the seventh when the Reds filled the bases with one out. With Cozart due up, and Cozart having hit into a double play in his previous at-bat, manager Dusty Baker sent up Xavier Paul to pinch-hit. He whacked the first pitch right at the second baseman and the only real Reds rally died via another double play.
It wasn’t a dominating night for Latos. After a 1-2-3 first inning, the Brewers put four runners on base in the second and third but didn’t score.
They broke through for all the runs they needed in the fourth after Latos had two outs and nobody on. Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett both singled. But it seemed Latos might get out of it with No. 8 hitter Logan Schafer dragging an 0-for-21 to the plate. Alas he drilled a two-run double up the left-center alley.
Latos went seven innings and gave up two runs, six hits, three walks and struck out six. Gallardo went 6 1/3 innings for the Brewers giving up no runs, three hits, two walks with three strikeouts.
The division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates were drubbed by Arizona, 15-5, but the St. Louis Cardinals beat Travis Wood and the Chicago Cubs, 4-0. So the Reds remain 3 ½ games out of first place and a game-and-a-half behind the second-place Cardinals.