CINCINNATI (AP)—A few hours after making a bold move to stay in first place, the Milwaukee Brewers watched their lead get whittled away some more.
The Brewers led by 8 1/2 games on June 23, but a 13-14 slump has brought the Cubs to their doorstep. Chicago’s 7-1 victory over St. Louis on Wednesday cut the Brewers’ lead to two games, the smallest it has been since April 22.
This setback could be linked to right-hander Jeff Suppan (8-9), who was the Brewers’ biggest offseason acquisition but is struggling along with the rest of the team these days.
“It’s been a battle,” said Suppan, who gave up five runs—all with two outs—and 10 hits in five innings. “I’m just trying to work through it and do what I can.”
The Brewers did what they could to improve their playoff chances before the game, trading three pitching prospects to San Diego for reliever Scott Linebrink. It marked a philosophical turnaround for a team more accustomed to giving up in July.
The Brewers also got good news when center fielder Bill Hall came off the disabled list before the game, completing his fast recovery from a severe ankle sprain three weeks ago.
Suppan made the upbeat mood disappear. In the offseason, the right-hander got a four-year, $42 million contract that was the biggest in Brewers’ history. His short starts for the Brewers have taxed their bullpen.
Suppan has pitched five or fewer innings in six of his last eight starts.
“If I’m able to make some better pitches, I’d go deeper into games and help the team better that way,” Suppan said. “I’ve played long enough to know you’ve just got to grind through it. There’s a lot of ups and downs.”
Getting the last out was his biggest problem on Wednesday. The Reds loaded the bases with two outs in the third, and Suppan fell behind 2-0 in the count to Keppinger, who knew what to expect.
“I was looking fastball, and I got it,” Keppinger said. “It was a good pitch to hit.”
Prince Fielder’s run-scoring single off Mike Stanton cut it to 5-3 with no outs in the eighth and left runners at first and third. Closer David Weathers snuffed out the rally with the help of a botched double-steal attempt.
Fielder took off from first on a full-count pitch to Geoff Jenkins, who swung and missed. When catcher Javier Valentin threw to second base, Kevin Mench took off from third base and was out at the plate.
The double steal was a set play for that situation, and manager Ned Yost blamed himself for not changing it.
“That was my fault,” Yost said. “We have a set play and it comes into play maybe four times a year.”
Weathers pumped his fist after the double play ended the inning and the Brewers’ final threat.
“I’ve had some weird double plays this year,” Weathers said. “You take them how you can get them.”
Weathers got the last six outs for his career-high 20th save in 24 chances. Half of his saves have involved more than an inning, the most in the majors.
Two Cincinnati players left the game with injuries.
Catcher David Ross dislocated the small finger on his right hand while sliding headfirst into second base on a fourth-inning double. There was no indication how long he will be sidelined.
Shortstop Pedro Lopez left the field sitting on a cart, holding a bloody towel to his mouth, after he was hit on the left side of the face by Matt Wise’s pitch in the eighth. Interim manager Pete Mackanin said it appeared that Lopez had broken a bone in his cheek. He was taken to a hospital for tests.
Banished hits king Pete Rose watched from a reserved party area in the second deck behind home plate. Rose, who has attended numerous games at Great American Ball Park, was in town for a youth baseball clinic.
The 10 hits off Suppan matched his season high. … Hall, who played two games in the minors on a rehab assignment, went 1-for-3 and came out of the game as part of a double-switch. … Reds LF Adam Dunn had three hits and extended his streak to a season-high 11 games. … Slumping Ken Griffey Jr. of the Reds went 0-for-5, failing to get the ball out of the infield. He’s in a 2-for-26 slide.