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Crew can't close out Padres in rough 9th

Knebel to be eased out of closer's role for now; Soria gives up slam, gets injured
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers were three outs away from banking another series victory and a rare day game win. Instead, they slipped deeper into a closer conundrum.

Corey Knebel faced four batters in the ninth inning and retired none before yielding to Brewers newcomer Joakim Soria, who served up Hunter Renfroe's go-ahead grand slam and departed with a groin injury in a disheartening 8-4 loss to the Padres on Thursday at Miller Park.

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MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers were three outs away from banking another series victory and a rare day game win. Instead, they slipped deeper into a closer conundrum.

Corey Knebel faced four batters in the ninth inning and retired none before yielding to Brewers newcomer Joakim Soria, who served up Hunter Renfroe's go-ahead grand slam and departed with a groin injury in a disheartening 8-4 loss to the Padres on Thursday at Miller Park.

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The Brewers will back Knebel out of the closer's role, manager Craig Counsell said. Thursday's outing, which began with three straight walks to Padres hitters in the Nos. 7-8-9 spots, came four days after Knebel took a loss against the Rockies by allowing Nolan Arenado's 11th-inning home run.

"This isn't about the ninth inning," Counsell said. "We need Corey to get outs for us, and we need Corey to get big outs for us, whether it's the seventh, eighth, ninth -- sixth. We need those outs.

"The next time out, we'll give him an easier spot, for sure. But at some point, we're going to try to work to get him back to big spots in the game. I think we function best when Corey has the ninth, but if we have to do things a little differently to get him back on track, then that's how we'll approach it."

Last year, Knebel set strikeout records and made the National League All-Star team on the way to 39 saves and a 1.78 ERA.

This year, he is striking out two fewer batters per nine innings and has a 4.79 ERA.

"I just need to get out of it. I [stunk] today. I just couldn't throw strikes," Knebel said.

Video: SD@MIL: Brewers talk late-inning loss to the Padres

Asked how he intends to get out of it, Knebel said, "Just get in there and throw strikes -- it shouldn't be hard. We've been doing it for a long time. Pitchers should know how to go in there and throw strikes. I couldn't do it today. That was it."

It was a six-run ninth inning for San Diego, starting with those three walks. When Knebel misfired a throw home on Travis Jankowski's infield hit to make it a 4-3 game, Soria took over and provided hope by retiring Eric Hosmer on a shallow flyout, only to find too much of the strike zone with a 1-2 fastball on Renfroe's go-ahead slam.

Four pitches later, Soria departed with a Brewers athletic trainer during a Franmil Reyes at-bat. Reyes greeted reliever Jacob Barnes with a homer to make it 8-4.

Video: SD@MIL: Padres come back in the 9th with 6-run inning

"It was a big mistake," Soria said. "I tried to go down and away [to Renfroe]. Obviously, it didn't happen."

Soria, who said the groin issue did not present itself until after the grand slam, will be examined Friday before the Brewers open a three-game series in Atlanta to determine whether he will miss time with what Counsell characterized as a "minor" injury.

Video: SD@MIL: Soria leaves the game with an injury in 9th

Soria is one option to close games while Knebel is out of the role. He saved 16 games for the White Sox before the Brewers acquired him ahead of the non-waiver Trade Deadline to bolster a bullpen that has been Milwaukee's runaway strength this season.

If Soria is down a few days, right-hander Jeremy Jeffress or left-hander Josh Hader could close. Hader was unavailable Thursday, Counsell said, after a 1 1/3-inning outing two days earlier marked his third appearance in four days. Jeffress, who was the Brewers' closer in 2016 before he was traded to Texas, pitched a scoreless eighth inning to hand Knebel a 4-2 lead in the ninth.

"Nobody here feels sorry for themselves," Soria said. "This is part of the job. It's part of what we do."

Those late blasts spoiled Junior Guerra's second quality start in as many August outings and Jonathan Schoop's best game in a Brewers uniform, and cost Milwaukee a chance to gain a half-game on the idle Cubs in the National League Central.

After their first series loss since dropping two of three games to the Dodgers to open the second half, the Brewers sit two games behind the division-leading Cubs.

"Our bullpen has definitely been our strongest part all season," said Guerra, who allowed eight Padres hits but only two runs in six innings. "Things like this are going to happen. They're not perfect. We still believe in them."

Video: SD@MIL: Guerra strikes out Jankowski looking in 1st

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Schoop figured in all of the Brewers' runs, scoring twice and delivering a tiebreaking two-run double in the fourth inning. It was just one hit, but it was still a welcome breakthrough for Schoop, who was 3-for-27 with 12 strikeouts, no extra-base hits and no RBIs in parts of eight games with the Brewers as he stepped to the plate with two on and no outs against Padres left-hander Robbie Erlin. Schoop turned on a 2-2 fastball and sent it down the left-field line for a 3-1 Brewers lead.

Video: SD@MIL: Schoop rips a 2-run double to left in the 4th

"That was a big spot," said Counsell. "He hit a tough pitch to give us the lead and made a nice baserunning play after that. That's a big two-run double. You want to be able to contribute and feel like you contributed. Unfortunately, it didn't result in a win."

Schoop promptly scored with some heads-up baserunning, racing all the way home from second when Padres shortstop Freddy Galvis misplayed Lorenzo Cain's ground ball for a two-out error. It was San Diego's second costly two-out miscue of the day; Schoop advanced to second on Jose Pirela's throwing error on the back end of what should have been an inning-ending double play in the second and scored on Manny Pina's double.

Video: SD@MIL: Schoop races from second, beats throw home

SOUND SMART
With Thursday's heartbreaker, the Brewers have lost eight straight day games and eight straight getaway games, an odd quirk for which Counsell and club officials don't have an answer. They have lost 16 of their last 19 day games to fall to 17-29 under the sun this season. Compare that to a 49-23 mark at night.

HE SAID IT
"No. Stupid question. -- Knebel, when asked whether his confidence was shaken

UP NEXT
The Brewers scored 23 runs against Braves pitching while winning three of four games in a series at Miller Park in early July, and they will look for more of the same when the teams meet again at SunTrust Park for a three-game set beginning Friday at 6:35 p.m. CT. Freddy Peralta, who won one of those games against the Braves with a quality start, will work the opener against right-hander Kevin Gausman. He was among the starting pitchers targeted by the Brewers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline before Baltimore dealt him to Atlanta.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Junior Guerra, Corey Knebel, Jonathan Schoop, Joakim Soria