Brewers 4, Reds 2: Cincinnati slump continues
MILWAUKEE – Trevor Bauer was arguably the best pitcher in baseball entering Monday’s start against the Milwaukee Brewers, but he even he needs more run support than the slumping Cincinnati Reds offense could muster.
Bauer wasn't as dominant as usual – especially by his high standards – and the Reds lineup remained in a funk during a 4-2 loss at Miller Park. The Reds have lost three consecutive games and dropped to a season-high five games under .500.
The Reds have scored runs in just four of their last 42 innings. They haven’t even produced more than one hit in an inning since Eugenio Suárez and Mike Moustakas had back-to-back hits in the third inning of Thursday’s loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
"We are, unfortunately, at a point now where we kind of have to empty the tanks and get everything out now," catcher Curt Casali said. "I don't know what the numbers say, where we stand, it's hard to pay attention to that, but we need to go. I'm not gonna say there's panic in here, but there's a definite sense of urgency that we need to turn this thing around very quickly, and we're aware of that. It's not like we're just sitting doing nothing, we're trying new things."
It wasn't a listless offensive performance against Brewers lefty Brett Anderson, a pitcher they faced two weeks ago. They had a baserunner in each of the first four innings. The problem was they grounded into three double plays, deflating their own momentum.
The ball that Moustakas hit into a double play, in the second inning, was their hardest-hit of the game with 106-mph exit velocity.
"As a unit, you could say we still hit the ball hard," Casali said. "After a while, you keep saying it and it turns into a real excuse. We’re talking about as a team that we need to do better. We need to find holes. There are ways to find the holes and play the game a little better. That will hopefully lead to some more wins.”
The Reds had only two baserunners touch second base Monday: Casali on his solo homer in the sixth inning and Suárez on his solo homer in the seventh.
Milwaukee’s bullpen struck out six of the 10 batters it faced to seal the series-opening victory. Matt Davidson picked up a rare at-bat against a right-handed reliever in the seventh inning – he struck out looking – so the team could save him for a potential matchup against star lefty closer Josh Hader.
Davidson represented the game-tying run in the ninth inning, but he grounded into a fielder's choice to end the game.
The Brewers, who had scored a measly two runs in the first inning in their first 26 games, made strong contact against Bauer immediately. Christian Yelich thumped a double down the left-field line and scored on a single to center from Justin Smoak. Ryan Braun added a double to the left-field wall to put two runners in scoring position before Bauer pitched out of the jam.
"I started off with the same game plan that I used against them last time because there was no reason to not, and they made an adjustment in the first inning," Bauer said. "They had clearly made an adjustment to it, they were looking for it, and they’ve got a lot of good hitters in that lineup. They came out hot."
Bauer struck out eight in 6 innings, yielding a season-high four runs and seven hits. The main at-bat he wished he could have back was in the third inning against Keston Hiura, who he struck out with fastballs in the first inning.
In his second at-bat against Hiura, he misfired on a pair of sliders and hit him with the second one. Next up was Smoak, who hammered a two-run homer into the second deck in right field on a full-count fastball.
"The Hiura at-bat is the one I’d want back," Bauer said. "I had two outs. I was in a matchup that I feel like is good for me and I missed bad with two pitches and that put me in that spot and it ended up costing me two runs and ultimately was probably the deciding factor in the game."
Brewers catcher Omar Narváez drilled his first homer of the season to open the fourth inning, depositing a fastball at the top of the strike zone over the right-field wall.
Bauer had allowed eight hits and two runs across his first four starts, stretching 26 innings.
"I was happy with my stuff for sure, but they battled," Bauer said. "They put up really good at-bats all night long. You really have to give them credit. It was a lot different game than the first time I faced them. They clearly understood what I was trying to do and thought along with me. When I made some mistakes, they didn’t miss them."
Milwaukee was swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates last weekend and its offense slumped just as badly as the Reds. Then the Brewers' bats woke up against Bauer. Go figure.
When Sonny Gray set the Reds’ franchise record for strikeouts in the first five appearances of the season (45), Bauer tweeted, “Hold my beer.” Budweiser wrote on Twitter that if Bauer broke Gray’s record, it would create cans engraved “Cincinnati Buds.”
Bauer needed five strikeouts to top Gray’s club record Monday. He spelled B-U-D-S on the back of the mound after his first four strikeouts. After striking out Avisail Garcia to open the third inning, for his fifth strikeout, Bauer underlined the letters and mimed cracking open a cold one and taking a sip.
"If you’re going to do it when you’re pitching well and enjoy it, then when you do it and you lose, you have to kind of wear it," Bauer said. "Not the ideal outcome for it. I try to make my starts entertaining. I try to give people a reason to tune in. I try to bring attention to the team and what we’re trying to do.
"Obviously, it doesn’t matter at all given that we lost. Would much rather have struck out zero and won. But, yeah, it’s just entertainment. At the end of the day, we’re entertainers. We come here to win but we can entertain while we’re trying to win. It doesn’t take away from the focus on the game."