MILWAUKEE -- After an awesome August, the Brewers are sputtering in September. On the heels of a 20-7 August, the Brewers have dropped four in a row to start the final month, including Thursday's 5-2 loss to the last-place Padres at Miller Park that cost the Brewers an opportunity to gain a half-game on the National League Central-leading Cubs, who were idle. The Phillies also were off Thursday, so the Brewers' lead in the NL Wild Card standings shrunk to four games.
"At this time of year, every game is important so you feel like you have to win every single game," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "But you don't worry about it. You don't dwell on it. "We have a four-game lead in the Wild Card, and you try to come back and win a game tomorrow. That's the extent of our focus. If you start worrying about it, that starts piling up on you. That's weight that you don't need." Jeff Suppan (10-8) lost for the first time in more than a month against a Padres team that had lost nine straight road games and featured a starting pitcher -- Padres left-hander Shawn Estes (2-1) -- who had not worked in the Majors since May 23 because of a fractured thumb. All nine members of the Brewers' starting lineup had a hit in the game, but Estes scattered seven hits in his six innings and limited the Brewers to one run. Milwaukee was 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, including Corey Hart's run-scoring groundout, and is 7-for-46 (.152) in the clutch during their four-game skid. Five of those hits came in one game. "We didn't do a great job of it against New York [earlier this week] and it continued again," Yost said. "A lot had to do with some of their defense, [but] you're looking for one hit. If you can get one hit, it kind of opens the door and kind of takes pressure off." That hit never came. The Brewers' best opportunity came in the fourth inning, when they trailed, 2-1, but loaded the bases against Estes with one out. Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff made one of a handful of nice plays to field J.J. Hardy's grounder and threw home for the second out. Ryan Braun then grounded into another fielder's choice to end the inning. Yost chuckled afterward, saying that Estes, "held us in check with runners in scoring position," then quickly credited the veteran. "I look at my team like this: If we don't hit a guy good, it's because he pitched good, because we can hit," Yost said. "I think that we've got a really nice hitting club. In situations like tonight, when we were [0-for-9] with runners in scoring position, he made some good pitches." The Brewers picked a bad night for a poor showing. Principal owner Mark Attanasio was in town, but he had left his usual seat next to the Brewers' dugout by the late innings. "We just haven't been able to get a big hit when we needed it," said Brewers center fielder Mike Cameron, who tripled and scored in the second inning. "We're getting people out there, we just have to continue to find ways to punch them across the plate." Suddenly, they are not defending or pitching well, either. The Brewers committed two errors for the second time in three games, including a fielding miscue by second baseman Rickie Weeks in the sixth inning that helped the Padres score an unearned run. Suppan took a loss for the first time in seven starts after going 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA in August. He surrendered four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, a day after Dave Bush also lost following a perfect August (4-0, 2.12 ERA). Cue the concerned fan base. "What can you do? I don't know what the right formula is," Suppan said. "I'm just trying to play to win the game and I think that's what we're all doing. We're playing hard. You get a couple losses in a row and you get ready for the next day. There's really nothing we can do about how other people feel about it." Padres catcher Nick Hundley and shortstop Luis Rodriguez drove in two runs apiece for the Padres. Center fielder Will Venable hit his first Major League home run off Suppan leading off a two-run sixth inning, when Suppan was relieved by Guillermo Mota. Hardy hit a solo home run in the seventh inning off former Brewer Mike Adams, but the Padres were working with a comfortable lead. "We have to continue to try to get good pitching and good defense, because the hitting is going to come, man," Cameron said. "It's not as bad as everybody thinks it is."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.