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Peralta stumbles in 1st; Crew's bats quiet in loss

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

CINCINNATI -- Freddy Peralta had no idea what went wrong in a grueling, 43-pitch first inning. All he knew was he had to fix it.

The Brewers' rookie right-hander did just that on Sunday, when he surrendered three runs before recording an out, then settled in to give the Brewers hope of a comeback. A 54-minute rain delay that ended Matt Harvey's finest outing with the Reds amplified that hope.

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CINCINNATI -- Freddy Peralta had no idea what went wrong in a grueling, 43-pitch first inning. All he knew was he had to fix it.

The Brewers' rookie right-hander did just that on Sunday, when he surrendered three runs before recording an out, then settled in to give the Brewers hope of a comeback. A 54-minute rain delay that ended Matt Harvey's finest outing with the Reds amplified that hope.

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But it was promptly extinguished in an 8-2 loss at Great American Ball Park because the Brewers didn't hit much after the delay, and the Reds did, roughing up reliever Aaron Wilkerson for five runs in a sixth inning punctuated by Cincinnati's second grand slam in as many days.

"It was 3-0 with nobody out, and for it to still be 3-0 there in the sixth, especially in this ballpark, you still have a fighting chance," said Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw. "We were in a good spot. But they came out after the rain delay and put some good at-bats together again and put it out of reach."

Ryan Braun's two-run home run in the ninth spared Milwaukee a shutout, but after winning the first two games of the series against the National League's hottest team, the Brewers settled for a four-game split and saw their lead in the NL Central dwindle to half a game over the Cubs.

Video: MIL@CIN: Braun rips a late two-run homer to center

Peralta, the rookie sensation coming off his second start with double-digit strikeouts and only one hit allowed, labored in a long opening inning. The first six Reds reached safely for a 3-0 lead, as Peralta surrendered two walks and four hits while working with diminished velocity on a humid 93 degree afternoon.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell stuck with Peralta, who entered the day with 35 strikeouts in his first 22 2/3 big league innings, and saw it pay off. He struck out the final three batters of the first inning and managed to pitch through the end of the fifth allowing only one more hit -- Tucker Barnhart's bloop single over third base in the second inning. Peralta struck out five, and twice retired the side on fewer than 10 pitches.

"We were really both concerned to see him and really anxious to see him because his numbers were so strong in the league so far," said Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman. "He showed us why. That was a pretty gutsy performance to go 40-plus pitches in the first inning and then come back there and regroup."

Counsell said, "It was really cool to see him right it, and how well he pitched for the last [four] innings. As much as anything, it's a lesson you've got to get it rolling right away because a big league team will take advantage of it."

Counsell thought the issue was Peralta's release point. Peralta wasn't immediately sure.

"The pitching coach [Danny Darwin] told me, 'Forget about this. Keep fighting and let's see what happens,'" Peralta said. "That's what I did.

"In this game, you have to learn something new every day. I take it like a learning experience," Peralta added. "I knew that I had a responsibility to keep in the game as long as I can because our bullpen has been working a lot the last couple of days. That's my job."

The Brewers need Peralta at the moment. Zach Davies, whose lingering shoulder injury cleared a path for Peralta's second stint in the Major Leagues this season, left his rehab start on Thursday with a back injury and will not be able to rejoin the rotation this week as expected.

Video: MIL@CIN: Sogard reels in fly ball with a sliding grab

Before the rains came, Harvey threw fewer pitches in his first three perfect innings (32) than Peralta expended to record his first out (35), and fewer pitches through four perfect innings (41) than Peralta needed in Cincinnati's nine-batter first (43).

The Brewers' first baserunner was Shaw, who punched a shift-beating single to left field, leading off the fifth inning. Their only other baserunner against Harvey was Brad Miller, who singled amid lightning and thunder immediately preceding the rain delay in the sixth.

"Two runs, three runs," said Counsell, referring to Milwaukee's output in the past two games. "You're going to need more to win most games. Today was a pretty light day just as far as putting pressure on the other guy."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Wilkerson, who took an early-morning flight on Sunday from Round Rock, Texas, after a promotion from Triple-A Colorado Springs, retired the first batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth before hitting Adam Duvall with a pitch. The inning quickly unraveled, as Alex Blandino and pinch-hitter Jesse Winker hit successive singles to make it 4-0 before Jose Peraza delivered the big blow, a grand slam to left field.

Video: MIL@CIN: Peraza drills a grand slam to left field

"I felt like it was a pretty well-located pitch, but I showed him the same pitch three times in a row," Wilkerson said. "Probably should have went with something different."

It marked the second straight day a reliever was knocked around in his season debut. Mike Zagurski was charged with four runs without recording an out in Friday's loss.

"There's innings that we need to cover there, and those are the guys that have to do it," said Counsell. "[Wilkerson] settled down the last two innings. We needed those innings covered, and that's the spot for Wilk. There's length there -- a two-inning window for him to keep us in the game -- and they got the big blow."

SOUND SMART
It's July 1 and the Reds already have hit nine grand slams, most in the Majors and enough to match a franchise record they set in 2002. The Major League record for slams in a season is 14, a mark shared by the '06 Indians and '00 A's.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
For the second straight day, Brewers center fielder Keon Broxton made what Statcast™ considers a four-star catch, ranging 80 feet in 4.9 seconds for a Scott Schebler fly ball that had a 41 percent catch probability. Broxton held on when he smashed into the outfield wall.

Video: MIL@CIN: Broxton's makes 41% probability catch

UP NEXT
Brent Suter will get the start as the Brewers return to Miller Park to face the Twins at 7:10 p.m. CT on Monday. Suter was named the Brewers' pitcher of the month in June when he went 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. The Twins will send right-hander Kyle Gibson to the mound in the opener.

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

Milwaukee Brewers, Freddy Peralta