Crew thrown for a loop by Reds in finale
Starter Looper runs into trouble early in loss to Cincinnati
CINCINNATI -- After allowing three runs in the first three innings Thursday, Brewers right-hander Braden Looper felt a sense of comfort when Milwaukee struck back to tie the game in the top of the fourth.
A new ballgame for Looper. A chance to start over.
His undoing came against the pitcher the rest of his teammates struggled against for much for the game -- Reds right-hander Micah Owings.
Owings didn't pitch great, but he was a bit better than Looper on the mound. And when batting against Looper in that fourth inning, Owings got the best of him, hitting an RBI triple -- and later scoring on a wild pitch -- to help lead Cincinnati to a 6-5 win over the Brewers at Great American Ball Park.
Just one of those nights for Milwaukee. The starting pitcher wasn't at his best, and the opponent's pitcher beat the Brewers with his bat.
"We probably could sit here and talk about this game for an hour, about the one little thing here and there that could have made a difference in the game," Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said. "The big hit was the pitcher. Tying it up and then going back out there and them taking a lead, sometimes that's a backbreaker."
Looper, who had his worst outing of the season (3 1/3 innings, eight hits, five runs) and fell to 2-2, put it more succinctly.
"The moral of the story is I didn't give the guys a chance," he said. "They tried to battle back. I put us in a hole, and you can't do that."
The Reds were playing without two of their best hitters -- second baseman Brandon Phillips and first baseman Joey Votto were scratched with the flu -- and their shortstop, Paul Janish, had a stiff shoulder from pitching the ninth inning of Wednesday's game. Although one could have mistaken Cincinnati's lineup for that of the Triple-A Louisville squad, the Reds took a 3-0 lead in the third inning, thanks to home runs by Jay Bruce and Willy Tavares (only the eighth of his six-year career) and a sacrifice fly by Laynce Nix.
But the Brewers loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the fourth, and a Prince Fielder two-run double and an RBI groundout by Mike Cameron tied the game at 3. It was, Macha said afterward, a missed opportunity against Owings (2-3), who allowed four earned runs in six innings.
"We had a couple chances for big innings," Macha said. "Three runs is a pretty big inning, but there was a chance for more."
Looper then immediately gave up the lead. After Janish singled, Owings -- who raised his batting average to .294 -- hit Looper's slider into the left-center-field gap and slid safely into third base with a triple. Afterward, he giddily pounded the base in celebration.
"I threw a slider down the middle -- it's not like he crushed the ball," Looper said. "He just hit it in the right spot. It's not like it was a line drive. It just happened to be where the guys couldn't get to it. I wasn't able to locate anything, even against him."
The Brewers, losing by three runs, made one more comeback attempt, scoring twice in the sixth inning. But, aside from a deep flyout in the ninth inning by pinch-hitter Brad Nelson, Milwaukee couldn't put together one last threat.
"The whole outing ... frustration was putting it the nice way," Looper said. "They battled back and gave me a tie game, and I didn't go out there and put up a zero. I just didn't have it. I kept trying and kept trying, and I wasn't able to get the ball down and couldn't locate anything. If you do that against big league hitters, they'll make you pay."
Still, the Brewers have got to feel good about themselves. They went 3-1 on this short road trip, and they've won 12 of their past 16 games. Milwaukee's hitters weren't as patient at the plate as they were Wednesday when they knocked around Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo for nine runs in an inning-plus, but one loss isn't going to depress the Brewers.
"We got off to a slow start, but where we are right now, there's a lot of confidence in this room," Looper said. "The guys battled back for me. We fell one run short. That's just showing you what this team is about. We almost had it, had a chance to tie the game. But I just put us in too deep a hole. We're playing well right now. We just have to continue to play well at home."
Josh Katzowitz is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.