The Brewers lost for the ninth time in 13 games, and other than a bench-clearing scrum in the fifth inning, looked lackadaisical doing it. The Dodgers jumped all over Chris Capuano in the first inning and eased to a 5-1 win at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday that sent the Brewers to their fourth consecutive series loss.
But by the time pinch-hitter Gabe Gross was called out on strikes in the ninth inning -- capping a 2-for-10 night with runners in scoring position for Brewers hitters -- every other NL Central club but St. Louis had gone down in defeat. St. Louis earned that distinction by default, beating division foe Pittsburgh.
With all of those other losses, Milwaukee maintained its 6 1/2-game division lead over Chicago and Houston.
"We need to pick up our game a little bit right now, and that goes for everybody," said manager Ned Yost, whose club is off Thursday before beginning another tough series in San Diego. "That goes for our hitters, that goes for our defense, that goes for our pitchers.
"Right now, the division is kind of allowing us to stay where we are. But that's not going to last forever. We need to pick our game up, and we need to pick it up soon."
Dodgers catcher Russell Martin hit a three-run double in a four-run first inning against Capuano (5-3), and finished with a career-best four RBIs. His big night backed Los Angeles starter Brad Penny (6-1), who held the Brewers scoreless on six hits in seven innings.
"He outpitched us," Yost said. "They outplayed us, they outpitched us. We didn't do anything exceptionally well. We didn't do anything 'averagely well.'"
The first five Dodgers to face Capuano reached safely, including Juan Pierre, who was credited with an infield single after Brewers third baseman Tony Graffanino hesitated with his throw to first, and Jeff Kent, who was hit by a Capuano pitch. Martin cleared the bases with his double, and Luis Gonzalez followed with a single that made it 4-0.
Capuano was limited to four innings and surrendered four earned runs on eight hits with four strikeouts. He has surrendered at least seven hits in each of his last four starts and is 0-3 with a 9.45 ERA in his last three starts after beginning the year 5-0.
"I need to do a better job," Capuano said. "It's frustrating from my end because my job is to give them quality innings. They're working hard behind me and I need to work harder for them. I'm getting in big situations and I'm not making good pitches. For whatever reason, it's been one inning where I'm not making good pitches."
"After he got through the first inning, he settled down, but he labored through all four innings at  pitches," Yost said. "He really should have been through five innings if you count the miscues."
The Brewers made a handful of those. After Graffanino's delayed throw in the first inning, second baseman Rickie Weeks was charged with a two-base error in the second when he dropped Rafael Furcal's popup along the right-field line. The ball was foul, according to two Brewers coaches who watched the replay, but it should have been an out nonetheless.
"We made a few errors, but not any mental ones," Fielder said. "The mental ones are the ones you can't afford. The physical stuff happens."
The Brewers' offense has struggled through much of the 13-game slide, and that was the case again on Wednesday against Penny. The team's only run-scoring hit came when Bill Hall put the team on the board with an RBI single in the eighth inning.
Penny tied for the NL lead with his sixth win and bounced back after suffering his only loss this season in his last start.
"He pitched real well," Fielder said. "Located pretty good, curveball was good, fastball was crisp. Everything was on point. He pitched like he's an All-Star."
Neither team scored in the fifth inning, but it sure was interesting in the Dodgers' half. Kent led off against Brewers right-hander Carlos Villanueva with a double, but was caught trying to steal third, an apparently costly mistake when Martin followed with a home run down the left-field line.
Or was it? Graffanino immediately protested, and after conferring, the umpires agreed that Martin's hit had hooked foul, a call that television replays confirmed. Villanueva's next pitch sailed over Martin's head for ball three, drawing a roar from the announced crowd of 35,609. As Martin trotted to first after ball four, Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder and Dodgers first-base coach Mariano Duncan got into an argument that promoted both benches to clear. Duncan also had some words for the Brewers dugout, where Brewers first-base coach Ed Sedar jawed back.
"I told him he had better stare somewhere else," Sedar said.
What was discussed on the field?
"We were discussing what inning it was," Fielder bluffed. "[Duncan] said it was the sixth inning. I said it was the fifth. So we talked about it."
Apparently it was a discussion that needed input from about 60 others. After players and coaches stood around for a few minutes, everybody returned to the dugouts and Villanueva retired the next two Dodgers hitters to escape damage.
"There was a lot of drama going on over nothing," Yost said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less