Brewers 4, Reds 1
CINCINNATI (AP)—Tomo Ohka bounced two pitches way in front of the plate—one landed in the grass, the other in the dirt—and threw another that registered 58 mph on the ballpark’s radar gun.
Everything else was amazingly good.
In a sign that he has fully recovered from shoulder problems, Ohka allowed only three hits in eight innings Sunday, helping the struggling Milwaukee Brewers beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-1 to avoid a three-game sweep.
After two weeks of nothing but bad news, the Brewers needed a little relief. Ohka (3-1) gave it to them, along with a bullpen that has been their undoing.
“I understand what this means to the team,” Ohka said.
It meant a lot, and provided a glimmer of hope that things can now get better.
Ohka gave up a pair of singles and Brandon Phillips’ homer in the eighth, the deepest he has pitched into any game this season. The right-hander struck out a season-high seven and walked only one, throwing 110 pitches.
“We couldn’t get a thing going against him,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “I don’t know. I’d like to say he changed speeds—he threw one up there at 58 mph, threw one off the grass. He did what he had to do to get us out.”
Brady Clark singled home a pair of runs off left-hander Eric Milton (6-6), and the Brewers tacked on two in the seventh against recently acquired reliever Gary Majewski—a comforting cushion for the NL’s worst bullpen.
“You want to get the early lead, but you also don’t want to stop,” Clark said. “You want to add to it. They can get five runs real quick here.”
Milwaukee won for only the third time in 12 games, a slide that has dropped the Brewers from 2 1/2 games out in the NL Central to a double-digit deficit. The bullpen has been the biggest problem—closer Derrick Turnbow lost his job after another meltdown on Friday night that included a couple of four-pitch walks.
Dan Kolb, who will close games for now, pitched the ninth to earn his first save this season. With Turnbow watching from a bullpen bench, Kolb gave up two singles before retiring Scott Hatteberg on a comebacker for the final out.
“Kolb threw strikes—just what we want our relievers to do to get groundballs,” manager Ned Yost said.
The Reds completed a 7-3 homestand that represented a turning point. They lost eight of nine heading into the All-Star break, prompting the front office to make an eight-player trade with Washington for relief pitching.
The bullpen was a strength during the successful homestand, which left the Reds leading a big pack of teams in contention for the NL wild card. The Reds improved to 28-24 at Great American Ball Park, where they’ve struggled most of the season.
“It was very important for us to win here because we haven’t been,” Milton said. “It was a great homestand.”
Ohka has been impressive in both starts since he returned from a partial muscle tear in his pitching shoulder. He came off the disabled list last Tuesday and gave up two runs in five innings of a 4-3 loss in San Francisco.
He was even better against the Reds, shutting them out until Phillips led off the eighth with his first homer since June 11, a span of 128 at-bats.
“His ball was moving a lot today,” Phillips said. “He changed speeds real good. He did his thing. That’s all I can really say.”
Carlos Lee’s RBI single in the seventh off Majewski snapped an 0-for-14 slump—he’s in a 2-for-20 slide overall. Prince Fielder followed with another run-scoring single off Majewski, who has struggled since arriving in the eight-player trade.
“He’s probably putting pressure on himself,” Narron said. “I really believe he’s going to pitch well for us. He’s going to keep getting the ball.”
Milton labored through the first two innings, giving up a pair of runs, four hits, two walks and hitting a batter with a pitch. After his walk loaded the bases with two outs in the second inning, Clark worked the count full and singled to left for a 2-0 lead.
One day after the Reds drew their fourth capacity crowd of the season, they sold 22,726 tickets for the series’ final game. … 2B Rickie Weeks was hit by a pitch for the 19th time, most in the majors. … The Reds called up LHP Brian Shackelford from Triple-A Louisville to take LHP Kent Mercker’s spot in the bullpen. Mercker went on the 15-day DL a day earlier with a sore elbow. … Ken Griffey Jr. singled in each of his last two at-bats. He’s 6-for-36 (.167) since the All-Star break with one homer. … The teams are 71-71-1 all-time, including 8-8 this season.