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Crew's crucial week starts flat in Cincinnati

Instead of entering playoff picture, Brewers 0-8 when trying to top .500 mark
@AdamMcCalvy
September 21, 2020

The Brewers are 0-for-8 this season in attempts to push past .500, and none of those earlier losses hurt more than this one. A victory on Monday not only would have given the Brewers a winning record for the first time in 2020, but it would have put them in

The Brewers are 0-for-8 this season in attempts to push past .500, and none of those earlier losses hurt more than this one.

A victory on Monday not only would have given the Brewers a winning record for the first time in 2020, but it would have put them in postseason position for the first time. Instead, Brandon Woodruff put a fastball where he shouldn’t have in the sixth inning, Eugenio Suárez hit it for a go-ahead two-run home run, and Milwaukee began its week-long sprint to the finish with a 6-3 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Box score

At 26-27, the Brewers fell to one game behind the 26-25 Cardinals in the race for second place in the National League Central, and one game behind the 28-27 Reds in the chase for an NL Wild Card berth.

“Honestly, I just know we’re chasing these two teams -- St. Louis and Cincinnati -- and I haven’t really looked at the record,” Woodruff said. “We know we’re neck and neck, and we know we need to win these games.”

Milwaukee also fell to 5-7 behind Woodruff, its Opening Day starter, including losses in four of his last five starts. It’s not all the right-hander’s fault; Woodruff has a 3.72 ERA in that span.

Before Suárez got him, Woodruff had used a mix of four-seam and two-seam fastballs to escape trouble spots. Brewers third baseman Jedd Gyorko provided a lead when he homered off Reds starter Luis Castillo in the fifth. It was the only damage off Castillo across 6 2/3 innings, as Cincinnati deployed its first of three quality starters in this series, with Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer still to come.

When Woodruff found trouble in the sixth, he faltered. Nick Castellanos doubled with one out and moved to third base on a wild pitch amid a long Joey Votto at-bat. Woodruff finally got Votto to ground out to a drawn-in infield, freezing Castellanos at third, then engaged Suárez and got ahead in the count, 0-2. But Woodruff couldn’t put the Reds' third baseman away.

Pitch No. 98 was a low changeup, which Suárez fouled off the glove of catcher Omar Narváez. Pitch No. 99 was a sinker up and in for ball one. Pitch No. 100 was a four-seam fastball over the middle, and Suárez sent it to the seats in left field for a 2-1 Cincinnati lead.

“He’s pitching well. Don’t mistake that,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “There’s been some starts where it hasn’t been easy for him, but he’s pitching well, absolutely. If we’re not winning his starts, it’s because we’re not scoring enough runs. He’s doing his job.”

The Reds never relinquished their lead, which grew it to 6-1 in the eighth with two more homers off rookie reliever Drew Rasmussen, including a three-run shot for former Brewers infielder Mike Moustakas. When Jace Peterson homered in the ninth for Milwaukee, it wasn’t enough. Another bid to push past .500 fell short.

Each of the Brewers’ previous seven attempts helps tell the story of their season:

The record: 0-0
The result: 3-0 loss at Cubs on July 24
Kyle Hendricks blanked the Brewers in a three-hit shutout on Opening Day -- an inauspicious start for a remade offense.

The record: 1-1
The result: 9-1 loss at Cubs on July 26
Expecting big things from Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura, the Brewers saw that duo go 2-for-25 while Milwaukee lost two of three games during the opening series at Wrigley Field.

The record: 2-2
The result: 8-6 loss at Pirates on July 28
Josh Lindblom’s debut was cut short by back tightness -- “almost like a boa constrictor” -- before the Brewers took a four-run lead in the seventh, promptly lost it, then lost the game in the eighth. It was a rare letdown for a bullpen that has mostly been stout.

The record: 3-3
The result: 6-4 loss vs. White Sox on Aug. 3
Working in relief, Corbin Burnes surrendered his only 2020 homer as the Brewers lost their delayed home opener after the series against the Cardinals was postponed.

The record: 5-5
The result: 8-3 loss vs. Reds on Aug. 7
A slumping Yelich homered for the second straight night -- this time it actually cleared the fence -- but he also missed a fly ball in the second inning that aided a six-run Reds outburst in the first of Eric Lauer’s two poor Brewers starts.

The record: 10-10
The result: 4-3 loss at Twins in 12 innings on Aug. 18
Held hitless by Minnesota’s Kenta Maeda into the ninth inning, the Brewers rallied to force extra innings before going down -- a sign they intended to keep fighting, sputtering offense and all.

The record: 11-11
The result: 7-1 loss at Twins on Aug. 20
Hitless until the fifth inning and scoreless until the seventh, the Brewers played highlight-reel defense and pitched well enough until late. They just didn’t hit enough.

Then came Monday, when 26-26 turned into 26-27 for the Brewers -- and another night outside the playoff picture.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.