MILWAUKEE -- Sitting in the bullpen with time to kill in the early innings, do Brewers relievers kick around ideas about how they would attack Eric Thames when he's rolling like this?Not really, said Jacob Barnes. They were asking a different question after a 2-0 win over the Reds on
MILWAUKEE -- Sitting in the bullpen with time to kill in the early innings, do Brewers relievers kick around ideas about how they would attack Eric Thames when he's rolling like this?
Not really, said Jacob Barnes. They were asking a different question after a 2-0 win over the Reds on Wednesday at Miller Park felt like deja vu all over again.
"We wonder why they pitch to him in the first place," Barnes said of the Reds. "We're like, 'Wait, you haven't learned the first  times?'
"I don't know what it is, but he's figured them out, and we enjoy seeing it because he produces runs. That's what we like."
In a near-carbon copy of a Brewers victory the night before, Thames hit another two-run home run to supply all of the offense in a second straight three-hit shutout of the Reds. The games even ended in similar fashion, with a two-inning save.
This time, Zach Davies started and pitched into the seventh inning before Dan Jennings and Barnes closed the Brewers' first back-to-back shutouts at hitter-friendly Miller Park since the team won three in a row against the Marlins from July 19-21, 2013.
Josh Hader on Tuesday and Barnes on Wednesday delivered Milwaukee's first back-to-back saves of at least two innings apiece since Chuck Crim and Dan Plesac in 1990.
"Pretty much, the last two [games] are because of our pitching," Thames said. "The offense hasn't been hitting on all cylinders, like it usually is. That's how it's going to be throughout the year. We pick them up and they pick us up sometimes."
For the second straight game, Thames accounted for the game's only runs with one swing. His two-run homer in the third inning against Reds starter Tyler Mahle was Thames' 10th against Cincinnati in the past two Aprils and gave him 12 total homers against the Reds over the last two years. That matched Yankees slugger Aaron Judge (vs. Baltimore) for the most home runs against a single opponent since the start of 2017.
"I'm not getting too caught up in all that stuff," Thames said. "Just trying to have a good at-bat, quality ABs. I just got a pitch to hit and I didn't miss it."
Six of Thames' last eight hits have cleared the fence. He leads the Brewers with seven home runs this season and has hit 18 and counting in April over the past two years. Bryce Harper is second in the Majors with 17 home runs in the past two Aprils entering the Nationals' game against the Mets on Wednesday night.
"It's his month," Davies said of Thames.
"[Thames] is their offense against us the last two days with the home runs," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We've made some good pitches against him this series too, but when we make a mistake, he makes us pay for it. There are those times where you just have to pitch to him.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Double the pleasure: The Brewers added three more errors to their Major League-leading total (21), including Jonathan Villar's boot of an easy Billy Hamilton grounder in the seventh inning. That gave the Reds runners at the corners with one out in a two-run game, and prompted a call for reliever Jennings to replace Davies with left-handed hitter Jesse Winker coming up. Jennings induced an inning-ending double play to keep the shutout bid alive.
"We gave them some extra chances today, for sure," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "These were kind of easy mistakes; I'd call them unforced errors. We got through them today but they're going to bite you. We've got to make those plays."
Early trouble: Davies held the Reds scoreless on three hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings for his second quality start, but first, he had to navigate first-inning trouble. Reds leadoff man Winker opened the game with a double and took third when center fielder Christian Yelich bobbled the baseball for an error. Davies walked Joey Votto on four carefully-placed pitches, but he retired the other three batters he faced without allowing Winker to budge.
"It kind of sets the tone for the game, that I know I'm getting some soft contact and being able to put the ball where I want it," Davies said.
With All-Star closer Corey Knebel on the disabled list, Counsell is getting creative with save opportunities. The Brewers already have a trio of two-inning saves this season, the first time they have had that many since 2008, but they have a way to go to match the club record. The 1982 Brewers, led by future Hall of Fame reliever Rollie Fingers, registered 21 multi-inning saves.
"I just used the eighth inning as the guide there," Counsell said of sending Barnes back for the ninth. "I thought he handled the eighth inning efficiently, filling up the strike zone, so he could get through the ninth and still have really effective stuff."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Credit left fielder Hernan Perez with an assist on a circus play in the second inning, when he converged with Yelich and shortstop Orlando Arcia on a popup off the bat of Reds third baseman Alex Blandino. A potentially dangerous play turned into a highlight-reel catch, as the baseball glanced off Perez's glove and into the glove of a sliding Yelich, who bobbled it before securing the second out of the inning.
• Yelich makes sliding snag via Perez deflection
HE SAID IT
"I'm always a competitor. I always like to go after guys. But he's on a tear, and it's tough to get him out right now. It'll be interesting to see what guys do for the rest of the year. -- Davies, asked whether he would pitch to Thames right now
Lorenzo Cain is expected back atop the lineup following a scheduled off-day, and Yelich will be reunited with his former team when the Brewers host the Marlins for the start of a four-game series on Thursday. On the same day they agreed to sign free agent Cain to a five-year deal, the Brewers acquired Yelich in a blockbuster trade with Miami for a package of prospects led by Lewis Brinson. Both teams are waiting for the trade to pay dividends; Brinson is off to a slow start for the Marlins, and Yelich just returned to the Brewers lineup on Wednesday following a stint on the disabled list for a right oblique injury. Chase Anderson starts for Milwaukee at 7:10 p.m. CT.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.