Out-of-sync Crew fall to Reds

Out-of-sync Crew fall to Reds

MILWAUKEE -- New Brewers manager Ken Macha just can't get his players pulling in the same direction.

For the past two days they had hit but not pitched, and at least for the first eight innings Tuesday, the trends reversed. Manny Parra grinded out six innings in his second start of the season and the bullpen was solid outside of a three-run ninth for Carlos Villanueva. But the Brewers' bats were silent in a 6-1 loss to the Reds in front of 27,441 fans at Miller Park who were stuck in their seats for most of the night.

J.J. Hardy accounted for the lone Brewers run with a homer in the second inning, but Milwaukee lost its fourth straight game and dropped to 2-6 this season.

"I don't think anybody wants to start the way we have," Macha said. "If you take a look at the league statistics, we're not swinging the bats very well, we're not pitching very well and we're not catching the ball.

"Much different results than we were getting in Spring Training. In spring we were playing good defense, I thought our pitching was very good in Spring Training and we swung the bats well. I'm hoping this is just a little dip and we can pull ourselves out of it."

The game was closer than the final score indicated. After the Reds jumped to a 3-1 lead on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s two-run homer in the third, Parra and two Brewers relievers blanked the Reds on one more hit through the eighth. Cincinnati pulled away in the ninth against Villanueva, who allowed three runs on four hits, though one of the hits was an RBI infield single that took a terrible hop and hit third baseman Bill Hall in the left collarbone.

Even without those insurance runs, the Brewers would have fallen. Some of the blame for the anemic offensive effort was on Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo (2-0), who allowed Hardy's second home run of the season but little else in 6 1/3 effective innings as he changed speeds and arm angles to keep Brewers hitters off balance.

Arroyo worked around at least one baserunner in six of the seven innings he started, but limited the damage to that lone run on four hits. He walked four and struck out three.

"He was pretty good today," said Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. "Different angles, different speeds. Guys like that are kind of tough."

Since going 7-for-21 with runners in scoring position on Opening Day in San Francisco, Brewers hitters are 7-for-49 (.143) in the clutch in their seven games since including 1-for-7 on Tuesday, when the lone hit was a Ryan Braun infield single that didn't plate a run. It did load the bases for Fielder, who worked into a 2-and-0 count but popped the next pitch, a slow breaking ball, to shortstop to end the inning.

Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Braun and Fielder combined to go 1-for-8 on Tuesday and they are 1-for-14 in the first two games of the series. Braun is batting .200 with two RBIs; Fielder is hitting .179 but has driven in five runs.

"Hopefully we can just get it out of the way now and then swing it like we normally do," said Fielder, who isn't taking solace in compiling quality at-bats at this point. "I want hits. Good at-bats are only good for so long."

That was not the Brewers' only opportunity. In the seventh, the Brewers chased Arroyo from the game when Hall singled and Jason Kendall followed with a walk. When pinch-hitter Brad Nelson was announced, it prompted Reds manager Dusty Baker to call for lefty reliever Daniel Herrera and Macha to counter with righty hitter Rickie Weeks, who did not start because he was 1-for-20 in his career against Arroyo. Weeks hit a ball up the middle but it was gobbled up by second baseman Brandon Phillips, who stepped on the bag and threw to first for an easy double play that preserved the Reds' 3-1 lead.

Parra (0-2) allowed three runs on only three hits in six innings, but his pitch count reached 66 by the end of the third inning and a pair of walks hurt him. Hairston walked with one out in the first inning and scored on Joey Votto's double, and Willy Taveras worked a leadoff walk in the third inning before Hairston belted a go-ahead, two-run home run.

Parra was more efficient beginning with a five-pitch fourth inning, throwing 18 pitches in the fifth inning and 14 in the sixth thanks to an Edwin Encarnacion double play. With Parra at the 103-pitch mark after that frame, Macha dipped once again into the bullpen.

It was an improvement over the previous two nights. Yovani Gallardo lasted five innings in Monday's series opener against the Reds and Jeff Suppan made it through just 3 2/3 innings on Sunday against the Cubs.

"I just felt like I had to get through a minimum of six innings for the bullpen and for the team," Parra said. "Try to keep us in the game, try to throw [fewer pitches], try to attack the hitters and get outs. ... We want to pitch better as a pitching staff. Eight games into it, we're not getting the job done."

The Brewers, already ensured their third straight series loss to start the season, will try to avoid a Reds sweep on Wednesday night.

"I'm a little surprised," Macha said. "We're going to score runs before it's all said and done. My major concern is that we get some quality starting pitching going, and tonight, perhaps, was a step."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.