MILWAUKEE -- Reds starter Sal Romano appeared locked in and in complete control against the Brewers on Tuesday. Then the sixth inning happened. The deciding blow was Eric Thames' two-run home run in a 2-0 loss as 3-14 Cincinnati sustained its ninth loss in its last 10 games.
Both teams were scoreless entering the bottom of the sixth when Lorenzo Cain opened with a leadoff walk against Romano, then moved to second on an errant pickoff throw. The first pitch to Thames -- a 94-mph fastball up and over the plate -- was clobbered into the second deck in right field. Ryan Braun followed with an infield single, and that was all for Romano.
"Ain't much else to say, honestly," Romano said. "I made a mistake, and the guy did what he needed to do with it. It cost us the game. That's really about it. Other than that, my stuff felt good overall for the first five innings. I made a mistake, and Thames did what he should do with hit -- he hit it out of the ballpark."
In five-plus innings, Romano gave up two earned runs and four hits, with two walks and four strikeouts. Amir Garrett, Dylan Floro and Cody Reed each provided a scoreless inning in relief.
The Reds' offense, which scored 10 runs Monday to snap an eight-game losing skid, came up empty Tuesday. Brewers starter Junior Guerra gave up one hit -- Joey Votto's two-out single in the third inning -- and three walks while striking out seven over 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision, and the Milwaukee bullpen took care of the rest.
Cincinnati mustered just three hits in the game. Two of them were doubles by Tucker Barnhart, who did not enter the game until the bottom of the sixth inning after Devin Mesoraco exited with a right wrist contusion.
Until the sixth, Romano had been nearly as stingy as Guerra, having given up just two singles and a walk. He mostly avoided a big pitfall from his previous starts: early-inning two-out rallies. Eric Sogard did have a two-out hit in the second inning and Travis Shaw walked with two outs in the fourth, but neither materialized into runs.
"Shoot, he gave us five[-plus] innings of two-run baseball. We just weren't in a position at that point in time to give up any more," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "The story is the fact that they came back and threw a shutout after we scored 10 runs yesterday. That, to me, is the story more so than Sal's outing. I thought he threw the ball very well. The bullpen was spectacular, and they were just able to outdo us with a two-run homer and some great pitching."
If there is any solace that the Reds can take, it's that they have gotten good performances from their starters in three straight games. Homer Bailey allowed three runs over seven innings in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, and Luis Castillo took a shutout into the seventh inning in Monday's 10-4 win over Milwaukee.
"This particular group, if we give them the repetitions we need, they're going to evolve into a really nice starting rotation," Price said. "We've talked about growing pains so many times the last few years with all the young pitchers. … You have a base open there. Not that you have to give in to Thames, but he ends up getting a decent pitch to hit and ends up hitting it out of the ballpark.
"There's nothing you can really do other than give these guys the opportunity to pitch, and for them to learn through game situations. I was very pleased with the way [Romano] threw."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Thames burns Reds again: Romano was furious with himself for giving up the homer to Thames, but he's hardly alone in giving up a long ball to the Brewers' slugger. Going back to last season, Thames has hit 11 homers vs. Cincinnati (nine in the month of April). On the pitch, Romano was trying to work Thames inside.
"I made a couple of good pitches to him away on the first at-bat and a couple of good pitches in the second at-bat, so I was just trying to get him on a jam shot. I made a mistake over the plate, and he hit it out," Romano said.
In the top of the first inning, Votto drew a four-pitch walk from Guerra. It gave Votto the 1,000th walk of his career. He reached the plateau the fourth-fastest in National League history, behind only Billy Hamilton (who played from 1888-1901), Roy Thomas (1899-1911) and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan (1963-84). Votto is second in walks in club history behind Pete Rose's 1,210. He also joined Jose Pujols and Jose Cabrera as the only active players with at least 1,600 hits and 1,000 walks. Votto notched career hit No. 1,600 on Monday.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Brewers second baseman Sogard kept his focus in the fourth inning and made the catch when Scooter Gennett's towering popup to shallow right field struck one of the cables that help support Miller Park's convertible dome. The Brewers don't track fly balls that strike the roof, but the most notable instance came during Game 4 of the 2008 National League Division Series between the Brewers and Phillies, when current Brewers manager Craig Counsell, then an infielder with the Crew, made an athletic catch near the third-base line in Milwaukee's season-ending loss.
The ground rules state that a batted ball that strikes the roof, a roof truss or roof cable over fair territory is in play. If, in the umpires' judgement, it strikes part of the roof in foul territory, it's a dead ball.
The series at Milwaukee concludes with a 1:40 p.m. ET game on Wednesday. Tyler Mahle (1-2, 5.63) will make his fourth start of the season and be opposed by Zach Davies. Mahle has shown strong stuff in his outings, but the 23-year-old has been hit hard when seeing a lineup for a third time in his past two starts.