MILWAUKEE -- The Reds have endured bullpen heartbreak several times this season. But the club felt it on a whole other level on Tuesday vs. the Brewers. First, one of their most effective relievers -- Michael Lorenzen -- blew a lead for a 7-4 loss. And worst, another reliever -- Tejay Antone -- grabbed his elbow in pain and walked off the mound.
Cincinnati, which blew a 4-1 lead during a four-run Brewers seventh inning, dropped to 8 1/2 games back in the National League Central standings. The second-place Reds, who lead by one game for the second NL Wild Card spot, hoped to let the first-place Brewers know they were still around in the division race.
"Any loss is [tough], especially at this point in the year to a really good team that we’re trying to chase down," Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "They put some good at-bats together, grinded out some runs and did what we did earlier on in the game to them. They flipped the script on us. That’s a good team, man. Credit to those guys. Looking forward to playing tomorrow."
In the past month, the makeup of the Reds bullpen has been radically transformed with the additions of three relievers and the return of three more from the injured list. Go back to July 19 and only Amir Garrett and Tony Santillan are still active on the roster from that group.
But this "new look bullpen" gave the game away much like the previous incarnation had in the past.
Lorenzen got the final out of the bottom of the sixth inning for starter Tyler Mahle but was idled by a lengthy top of the seventh. There were no runs scored, but reliever Hunter Strickland worked deliberately and threw 27 pitches.
"I had to warm up pretty fast, so I didn't get fully loose. But that's life in the bullpen," Lorenzen said. "Then to have to sit down after you pitch for that long."
Lorenzen returned for the bottom of the seventh with 13 2/3 scoreless innings to begin his season. He couldn't retire another batter in the game.
Lorenzo Cain and pinch-hitter Manny Piña sparked the seventh-inning rally with singles to center field. Kolten Wong delivered with an RBI single to left field that scored Cain and Lorenzen walked Jace Peterson to load the bases with no outs.
"The [clubhouse] area here in Milwaukee doesn't really support you being able to go throw into anything really well, so you've got to make the most of it," Lorenzen said of his between-innings wait. "They were just hitting them where they ain't, so that's about it."
"Since he’s come back, he’s been amazing, really," Reds manager David Bell said of Lorenzen. "He’s done a great job for us. You have to give the Brewers credit for getting something going off of him. What can you say? He’s been so good. It’s bound to happen to the best of them."
Mychal Givens replaced Lorenzen and got back-to-back sacrifice flies from Christian Yelich and Avisaíl García to tie the game. Omar Narváez hit an RBI double that scored Peterson with the go-ahead run.
A more demoralizing development came in the bottom of the eighth inning. In his first game back from the IL after he missed 52 games with a right forearm strain, Antone threw only five pitches to his first batter before leaving with an injury. He threw a 2-2 curveball to Rowdy Tellez for a ball and winced before grabbing his arm and calling for the athletic trainer.
After a couple of moments of speaking with assistant athletic trainer Tomas Vera and Bell, Antone exited the game. Luis Cessa took over and walked Tellez and later gave up Wong's two-run homer to right field.
"He was upset," Bell said of Antone. "He worked so hard to get back. He has a long career ahead of him and everything. He loves pitching and loves competing so much. He wants to be here with this team, helping us win and pitching. He was very disappointed. It’s hard. We’ll know more tomorrow."
Making the blown lead even tougher to swallow, the Reds did something few lineups have been able to do this season -- get to Brewers starter Corbin Burnes. The All-Star right-hander came in with a 1.54 ERA in his last nine starts -- with multiple runs scored in just one of those games.
Cincinnati scored three runs in the fourth inning, including RBI singles with the bases loaded by Mike Moustakas and Kyle Farmer. Barnhart, who had a sacrifice fly for the inning's third run, added an RBI single in the sixth.
"Our offense, that’s about as good of a job as you can do off that pitcher," Bell said. "They did everything they could to give us a chance to win.”