It’s difficult enough to sweep a three-game series, let alone a four-game series, even against a team with a 2-13 record.
The Cincinnati Reds had won their first three games in Miller Park against the Milwaukee Brewers, but that fourth eluded them Thursday afternoon.
The Brewers squeezed past the Reds, 4-2, due to another bullpen failure.
Former Reds pitcher Kyle Lohse, 0-3 with a 10.67 ERA when the day began, put a solid silencer on Cincinnati’s bats, stifling them on two runs and three hits over seven innings.
Homer Bailey, making his second start of the season, was not awful. He held the Brewers to two runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings.
But then the Reds’ Achilles’ heel entered the game. The bullpen. Kevin Gregg, who has struggled mightily all season, gave up a run in the seventh that proved fatal.
Gregg walked the first batter, Logan Schafer, on four pitches. Martin Maldonado bunted him to second and Jean Segura, after getting ahead 3-0, banged a 3-1 fastball into center field to score Schafer for the 3-2 lead.
Reds manager Bryan Price gave third baseman Todd Frazier the day off and shuffled his batting order. It didn’t work. He moved Joey Votto from second to third in the order for the first time this year and put hot-hitting Zack Cozart in the two-hole. Votto went 0 for 4 and Cozart went 1 for 4.
Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when cleanup hitter/first baseman Adam Lind led off with a home run.
It was inevitable that at some point Marlon Byrd would hit a home run. He hadn’t done it in his first 55 plate appearances and was hitting .113 in the fifth inning. After Brandon Phillips singled, Byrd drilled one into the right-center field seats to give Bailey and the Reds a 2-1 lead.
It only lasted until the Brewers came to bat and the first batter, Aramis Ramirez, tied it with his first home run of the year in his 52nd plate appearance.
After Gregg gave up a run in the seventh, Manny Parra gave up another run. Ryan Braun singled and pinch-hitter Jason Rogers singled to put runners on second and first. With two outs, Braun broke for third and third baseman Negron couldn’t handle catcher Tucker Barnhart’s throw and it skipped passed Negron. Braun scored on the error, charged to Negron, for a 4-2 Brewers lead.
The Brewers received from their bullpen Thursday what the Reds can’t seem to get. Former Reds set-up man Jonathan Broxton replaced Lohse in the eighth and struck out the side, blowing away Byrd, Negron and Barnhart, catching in place of Brayan Pena.
Brewers closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, who threw a wild pitch to enable the Reds to win Wednesday, 2-1, came on in the ninth and retired the first two. Cozart doubled and Votto had a chance to tie it but couldn’t.
The Reds had four hits and didn’t have a runner after the sixth until Cozart’s two-out double in the ninth. He fouled off two 2-2 pitches and then grounded out to second to end it.
Along the way, Billy Hamilton’s stolen base streak stopped at nine straight when he was thrown out in the sixth after a walk. The Reds had been 17 for 17 until then.
The Reds, back at .500 (8-8), return home Friday night to open a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs.