“If I can eat up a few more pitches then he’s done,” Lehr said. “Obviously, it turned out a lot better than that.”
Lehr overcame his own rocky start Thursday to pitch into the eighth inning and drew a key walk in Cincinnati’s five-run fifth, helping the Reds rally for an 8-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that completed a three-game sweep.
“He fouled off a number of pitches, got a walk and (it) didn’t appear as much at the time, but then we got some hits and got some more hits,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I can’t tell you the last time we came back in a game like that, but we got some big two-out hits.”
Lehr (3-1) struck out a career-high seven over 7 2-3 innings and Cincinnati matched its season-best winning streak at four. Lehr, who has spent most of his 11 seasons as a professional in the minors, said he’s lost some velocity over the years.
In the meantime, he’s taught himself how to pitch more effectively by relying on location.
“I don’t have anywhere near the stuff, but that’s just from overuse and abuse, trying to pay the bills and pitch well enough to get back to the big leagues,” Lehr said.
So does that make the 32-year-old right-hander a wily veteran now?
“I think I’m old enough, but I don’t think I have the service time for that,” he joked.
“He’s been phenomenal all year,” teammate Ryan Braun said of Fielder. “He hasn’t gotten that much attention because the team hasn’t been winning, but he has been as good as anybody in baseball, including Albert Pujols(notes).”
Bush (3-5), who came off a two-month stint on the disabled list with an injured triceps muscle, led 4-1 in the fifth and looked sharp until he walked Lehr on nine pitches. Drew Stubbs(notes) singled and Paul Janish(notes) doubled home Lehr and Stubbs. Joey Votto(notes) was intentionally walked before Bush was replaced by Mark DiFelice(notes).
“It’s frustrating, disappointing, whatever you want to say,” Bush said. “But as I said, I’m trying to focus on the fact I felt healthy, I felt good. I let the ball go without any hesitation.”
Brandon Phillips(notes) greeted DiFelice with an RBI double and Scott Rolen(notes) followed with a two-run single to give Cincinnati a 6-4 lead. Stubbs added a run-scoring single in the sixth and Votto hit his 20th homer, a solo shot, in the seventh.
Rolen, acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline from Toronto, is 7 of 19 with three RBIs since returning earlier this week from a concussion suffered when he was hit by a pitch Aug. 2. The Reds, 13-26 since the All-Star break, have won the last six games he’s played in.
“I’ve had results, that’s good, but I need to get back in there, see the ball a little bit and get some timing—make sure my head’s on straight, so to speak,” he said.
Lehr, who made 39 relief appearances for Milwaukee from 2005-06, appeared headed for a quick exit after allowing five straight batters to reach in the first, but with the Reds bullpen worn thin because of consecutive extra-inning wins, he lasted until Cameron connected for his 19th homer in the eighth.
“He gutted it out big time,” Baker said. “Not only did we win the game and Lehr got the win, but it puts our bullpen in much better shape for this weekend’s series against the Dodgers.”
It was another difficult loss for Milwaukee, which led the NL Central by two games at the beginning of July but is 19-31 since. The Brewers (61-66) are a season-high five games under .500.
“It’s kind of the epitome of how our season has gone,” Braun said. “It seems that if we don’t take advantage of every opportunity that we have, the other team finds a way to win the game.”
NOTES: Baker still wasn’t sure who his starter would be heading into Saturday’s game against Los Angeles. RHP Homer Bailey(notes) (3-4, 6.82 ERA) is expected to start Friday. … Brewers 2B Felipe Lopez(notes) returned to the starting lineup and went 2 for 5, but was limping in the clubhouse afterward with a big bandage on the top of his right foot.