CINCINNATI -- Acting Brewers skipper Dale Sveum needs to get out of the prediction business. On Thursday, he said Cubs righty Rich Harden was the kind of guy who could throw 80 pitches in four innings and get away without allowing a run. Pretty close. Harden threw 115 pitches in five innings and allowed only one run on one hit. On Friday, Sveum told reporters that lefty Manny Parra would be the first arm out of the bullpen behind starter Jeff Suppan "if things go awry."
And did they ever. Suppan surrendered five runs on a pair of home runs before he recorded his first out, Parra surrendered four more homers and the Reds tied a Great American Ball Park record with seven in all on the way to an 11-2 rout of the Brewers on Friday that left Milwaukee two games off the chase for National League Wild Card. The Phillies won Friday while the Mets lost, so Milwaukee (84-70) now trails Philadelphia (86-68) by two games in the Wild Card standings and sits 2 1/2 games behind the NL East-leading Mets (86-67). It's getting close to desperation time for the Brewers, who have lost 14 of 18 games in September and only have eight games left. "No doubt, you're two back in the loss column and you're running out of ballgames," Sveum said. "Hopefully you don't have to win every single game, but it might get to that point here pretty quick." The Brewers own a .222 winning percentage this month, putting them on pace for the worst September/October ledger in franchise history. The 1976 team played at a .235 clip down the stretch, going 8-26 in September and October under manager Alex Grammas. The Brewers were defeated Friday by Reds rookie right-hander Ramon Ramirez (1-0) who notched his first Major League win by holding Milwaukee to two runs on seven hits in six innings. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce each homered twice for Cincinnati. "It's crazy," said Brewers center fielder Mike Cameron, who drove in one of the club's two runs. "We've had some tough losses. We've had pretty much everything you can have in this month. Bad hitting. Bad timely hitting. Bad pitching. Bad defense. "But we can look at all of the negative points as the reason why we are where we are right now, but yet, still, if we can go out and play good baseball for eight more days, some good things still may happen. We put ourselves in this position." The bad news went beyond the Brewers' most lopsided loss since they fell to the Cubs by a 14-run margin April 20. Second baseman Ray Durham left the game in the fourth inning with a right hamstring injury that could thrust Rickie Weeks back into a starting role. Four of Cincinnati's homers were off Parra, who was called into duty after Suppan (10-10) surrendered five runs and five hits, including a pair of homers, before recording his first out. Suppan's two-inning outing came five days after he lasted 3 2/3 innings against the Phillies, and the usually solid September starter fell to 0-3 this month with a 10.47 ERA. "It doesn't matter when it is, you don't want to put the team in a hole in the first inning," Suppan said. "That's what I did tonight. It's my job to keep it close." Suppan's September swoon, after a 5-0 August, begged the question of whether he's banged up. He spent two weeks on the disabled list in July with joint irritation in his right elbow. He insisted the problem is the location of his fastball, not the health of his arm. "I'm honest," Suppan said. "My arm feels fine." Suppan was asked whether he has been through anything like this before, a month-to-month change so dramatic. "I try to have a short memory sometimes," Suppan said. Ramirez got plenty of early support. Jerry Hairston Jr. led off the game with a single and Wilkin Castillo bunted for a hit before Votto belted a three-run home run. After Jolbert Cabrera singled, Bruce hit a two-run shot that gave the Reds a quick 5-0 lead. The Reds tacked on against Parra. Votto -- the first hitter to face Parra -- blasted a 462-foot home run leading off the third inning that dropped about three rows short of clearing the right-field grandstand for a chance to bounce into the Ohio River. Hairston hit a two-run homer in the fourth, Cabrera homered leading off the fifth and pinch-hitter Andy Phillips took Parra deep leading off the sixth. Bruce hit his second homer off Tim Dillard leading off the seventh inning. For those scoring at home, the Reds led off four of their eight offensive innings with a home run. "I'm proud of Manny," Sveum said. "He went out there and he didn't lose his composure. We knew we were backing [Suppan] just in case something happened, and they dropped a five-spot on us and I had to exhaust every avenue we had to score." The runs never came. Cameron put the Brewers on the board with an RBI single in the fifth inning, and Corey Hart hit an RBI single in the sixth. The Brewers' loss also moved the Cubs one step closer to clinching the NL Central. Chicago owns a nine-game lead in the division, and will clinch with one more win or one more Brewers' loss over the next nine days. "We don't have a month ... left to do what we want to do," Cameron said. "We have eight games in nine days left. Just continue to go out and keep plugging. It's easy to throw all the cards on the table when things aren't going well, but you never know. You never know what may happen."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.