CINCINNATI – The Brewers have very little room for error, and with each loss from here on out, their situation becomes just that much more dire.
On a Sunday afternoon where the Padres -- one of the two teams ahead of Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card chase -- claimed victory, the Brewers fell to the Reds, 2-1, in their series finale at Great American Ball Park. Despite leaving town winning three of four games, the club is just a game up in the standings from prior to Thursday.
Milwaukee is 1 1/2 games back of the third NL Wild Card spot with nine games remaining in the regular season.
The day began with plenty of promise when starting pitcher Freddy Peralta -- a key piece to the rotation -- was activated from the 15-day injured list. Not having pitched since Sept. 8, the right-hander was limited to two innings in his start and allowed one-run while striking out three. Once he departed, Milwaukee’s bullpen had the tall task ahead of them of making up the innings. They just about got all the way through it with a combination of Aaron Ashby, Peter Strzelecki, Trevor Gott and Brad Boxberger.
Milwaukee’s bullpen finally ran out of steam in the bottom of the eighth when infielder Spencer Steer cranked a 414-foot solo home run off of Matt Bush to give Cincinnati the lead.
After Hunter Renfroe hammered his 28th home run of the season -- his third in the last two games and eighth in Cincinnati -- in the second inning off Reds starter Nick Lodolo, the left-hander held the Brewers hitless through his final four innings. After combining for 20 runs in the previous three games, Milwaukee’s offense went silent. The heart of the lineup struck out in order in the ninth to end the game.
They certainly didn't catch any breaks, either. Aside from Renfroe’s blast, they had nothing to show for their only other scoring opportunity. In the third inning, Tyrone Taylor hit a ground ball that seemed headed for the outfield, before deflecting off of Keston Hiura making his way to third base.
“He’s doing what he’s supposed to, get a jump and then score on a single,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “The ball could have hopped six inches lower or six inches higher, whatever. It’s just unfortunate. He was trying to get out of the way, it was hit really hard. Just bad luck.”
With an off-day on Monday, Counsell understands the position his team is in, but knows they still have a chance to make a late run with a crucial nine-game stretch awaiting them following Monday’s off-day. Their next chance will come against St. Louis on Tuesday.
“Look, we give ourselves a chance on this homestand,” Counsell said. “We’re going to have to win a lot of games, there’s no question about it. But … we’re capable of it, and the fact that we’re at home is a good thing.”
Of the nine games remaining, all of them come at home, with seven of them against sub-.500 teams in the Marlins and D-backs.
One positive, however, was the rotation returning to full strength. The Brewers entered the series with three starters on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, and left with a fully healthy squad to compete during the final stretch.
“I was feeling really good,” Peralta said. “I was able to do what I wanted today. I’m ready to keep going.
“I want to be a part of this moment right now. We’re trying so hard to win games. We had a good series here and now we are going home [where we’ve been playing well.]”