The Milwaukee Brewers expected Jeff Suppan to be an anchor of their starting staff when they signed him to a club-record contract in the offseason. On Saturday, they’ll need him beat the resurgent Cincinnati Reds for the first time in more than three years to keep from falling further back in the playoff race.
Suppan’s disappointing first season with Milwaukee continues as the Brewers’ quest for their first playoff spot in 25 years resumes.
Milwaukee (74-72) fell behind by four runs in the first inning Friday, and lost 6-5 to the Reds. That defeat, combined with the first-place Chicago Cubs’ 5-3 win over the Cardinals, dropped the Brewers 1 1/2 games off the division lead.
Milwaukee signed Suppan (9-11, 4.74 ERA) away from division rival and defending World Series champion St. Louis to a four-year contract worth $42 million. He was expected to star in the rotation behind ace Ben Sheets, but hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. In a 12-start stretch from June 27-Aug. 28—Suppan was 0-4 with 4.61 ERA—and Milwaukee went just 5-7.
Last Saturday against the Reds, Suppan pitched well as he allowed three hits in six innings, including a three-run homer by rookie Joey Votto, but didn’t get a decision as Milwaukee rallied for a 4-3 road win.
“He’s a guy that keeps plugging along without a lot of fanfare. He’s very consistent in what he does,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost told the Brewers’ official Web site of Suppan, who’s 0-2 with a 6.18 ERA in five starts against the Reds since last beating them on Aug. 16, 2004.
Suppan is 6-3 with a 3.95 ERA in 14 starts at Miller Park, but four of those victories came in the first two months of the season. He is trying to avoid finishing below .500 for the first time since 2002, when he was 9-16 with Kansas City.
Kirk Saarloos (1-4, 7.39) will make his first start for the Reds (68-79) since May 27, when he failed to get out of the first inning after giving up five runs in a 14-10 home loss to Pittsburgh.
“The game will humble you real quick,” Saarloos told the Reds’ official Web site as he gets a spot start in place of struggling rookie Phil Dumatrait, who served up homers to the first three batters in Sunday’s 10-5 loss to the Brewers. “Now that I’m here, I’m getting an opportunity to start and make the most of it.
“Hopefully, I’ll do well and open their eyes that I can start maybe next year.”
Since his disastrous outing against the Pirates in which he didn’t retire a batter, Saarloos has gone 1-0 with an 8.03 ERA in 10 relief appearances while being shuttled back and forth from the minors. The right-hander has no record and a 5.79 ERA in four games against the Brewers in 2007, but will be facing them as a starter for the first time.
Saarloos has been tagged for 11 runs and 12 hits in 10 innings over two career starts at Miller Park, losing both times while with Houston in 2002.
Cincinnati, which swept a three-game series from the Cardinals earlier this week, has won four in a row and six of eight.
“I’m about wins, however many home runs it takes to win, that’s how many as I want,” Fielder said.
MIke Rivera had a two-run homer in the ninth to close the scoring for the Brewers.