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Sixth-inning struggles send Brewers to loss

July 28, 2010

MILWAUKEE — After a thrilling series-opening win Monday, the Brewers’ hopes of making a run toward getting back into the playoff race were high. Two days later, a pair of blowout losses have taken a toll on such a positive outlook.

What a difference a couple days can make.

Like it has many times this season, the sixth inning loomed large for the Brewers on Wednesday. Over 103 games, the Brewers have given up 69 earned runs in the frame, good for a 6.03 ERA, which is tied with the first inning for the worst this season for the Crew.

Left-handed starter Chris Narveson combined with Kameron Loe to surrender five runs on five hits and two walks in the sixth, as the Brewers lost their second straight game to the Reds, 10-2, to drop the series and fall back to seven games under .500.

After tossing five scoreless innings and entering the top of the sixth with a two-run lead, Narveson (8-7) did not record an out, while loading the bases on a pair of singles and a walk.

“It was tough, because you had two ground balls in that inning, both where if they’re hit at somebody, you can get an out. One ball, you could get a double play on,” Narveson said. “It’s funny how the game is.

“It just kind of snowballed from there for us.”

Manager Ken Macha said he made the decision to remove Narveson because the Brewers had a rested bullpen after limiting the number of relievers needed a night earlier.

First out of the ‘pen was Loe, who entered the game with a 1.44 ERA over 25 appearances. He gave up two hits and walked a batter before getting the first out of the inning.

Tagged for two runs on three hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning, Loe also allowed all three inherited runners to score. Entering the game, Loe had stranded 18 of 23 inherited runners.

While Loe was able to get the Reds to hit it on the ground as intended, their grounders did not work out the way he would have liked.

“They hit them too hard. I want soft ground balls, feeble contact,” Loe said. “They might have been ground balls, but not the kind I would have liked. They hit good pitches, too, so give them credit.

“They’ve got a good lineup, man. All series, I didn’t see too many bad swings.”

Loe’s ERA jumped to 1.97, but his performance in the sixth paled in comparison to the rough eighth inning for Carlos Villanueva.

With the Brewers hanging around down just three runs, Villanueva entered in the eighth to hold the Reds in check and give the top of the Brewers’ order a chance to turn the game around in the bottom half of the frame.

Instead, after playing plenty of small ball over the first seven innings, the Reds showed off the power stroke in the eighth.

Villanueva gave up a pair of singles and walked pinch-hitter Mike Leake, before surrendering a towering grand slam to deep left field off the bat of Brandon Phillips. Two batters later, Joey Votto put another out to left, making it 10-2 and putting the game out of reach.

“That grand slam just opened the game wide open,” Macha said. “The first rally, the first five runs, they put the ball in play, they give you good at-bats with two strikes, they’re not afraid to hit the ball the other way.

“Starting the second rally, we got bunts for a base hit, they got the hit-and-run there, the squeeze play, they stole some bases on us here. They’ve got a lot of ways to score.”

Offensively for the Brewers, left fielder Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy each drove in a run as the Crew took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

While the game was still in reach in the seventh, center fielder Carlos Gomez led off with a double to the corner in left. He tried to stretch it to a triple, though, and was thrown out a third by Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes.

“I got him on the hop all the way from the wall. It was good,” Gomes said. “It was only 5-2 at the time. A leadoff triple might turn the game around. It was a big out for us.”

Afterward, Gomez shared a similar mindset with Gomes as he defended his mistake.

“In a situation like this, you want to make something happen and wake up the team,” Gomez said.

Milwaukee was unable to put anything together the rest of the way, as second baseman Rickie Weeks’ leadoff single in the eighth would be the last hit of the game for the Crew.

Adding insult to injury, first baseman Prince Fielder was ejected by home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro after he was called out on strikes to end the eighth inning.

After putting together a Miller Park-best seven-game home win streak and winning five in a row overall, the Brewers head to Houston having lost two in a row and dropping back to nine games out of first place in the National League Central.

“I think we just look up to the next series,” Narveson said. “We leave this behind us and try to go into Houston and get right back on that winning streak.

“It’s all about winning games.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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