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07/26/07 12:45 AM ET

Brewers fall flat in Cincinnati

Lead in NL Central shrinks after another tough loss to Reds

CINCINNATI -- It was another short night for Jeff Suppan, a regrettable one for manager Ned Yost, a scary one for Matt Wise and an all-around forgettable one for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Suppan lasted only five innings for the fourth time in his five July starts, as the Brewers endured a 7-3 loss to the Reds on Wednesday and saw their National League Central lead over the second-place Cubs shrink to two games. Milwaukee's margin had not been that thin since April 22.

"It's been a battle," said Suppan (8-9), who was charged with five runs and allowed a season-high 10 hits. "I'm just trying to work through it and do what I can.

"Obviously today, I put the team in a hole, five runs. They battled back, but if I'm able to make some better pitches, hopefully go deep into a game, I would help the team out better that way. It's just one of those things, and I'm trying to work through it."

All five of the Reds' runs against Suppan were scored with two outs, and he was particularly done in on Wednesday by a 30-pitch third inning, when the Reds sent eight men to the plate and scored four runs. Brandon Phillips' RBI single snapped a scoreless tie, and Suppan then walked Adam Dunn. Utility man Jeff Keppinger followed with a bases-clearing double.

"Outside of [Keppinger's hit], we were in the game," Yost said of Suppan's outing. "They weren't killing him, they were just finding holes. ... I still thought we had a chance to come back and find a way to win the game."

That hit gave the Reds the lead for good and sent the Brewers to their fourth loss in six games. The Cubs, meanwhile, walloped the Cardinals, 7-1, and have won nine of 12 games since the All-Star break.

Suppan remains on pace to top 200 innings for the season, but he has not exactly been the steady bullpen-saver that the Brewers were hoping for. Since a seven-inning win over the Marlins on June 1, Suppan has pitched into the seventh inning only once in 10 starts, and seven times has worked five or fewer innings.

Suppan has a 5.88 ERA for July and a 6.90 ERA over the past two months.

"The maddening part is the big innings," Suppan said. "I'm just trying to grind through it."

Reds starter Kyle Lohse (6-12) shut out the Brewers through five innings, but they rallied in the sixth inning, getting a solo home run from Craig Counsell and an RBI single from Bill Hall, who returned from the disabled list. They left the bases loaded when Tony Graffanino grounded into a fielder's choice.

Prince Fielder made it 5-3 with an RBI single off Reds reliever Mike Stanton in the eighth inning, but he chose not to stretch it into a double while Dunn chased down the ball along the left-field line.

"I didn't want to run into an out right there," Fielder said.

That left runners at first and third with no outs, but the Brewers were unable to score. Pinch-hitter Ryan Braun, who has out of the lineup because of a tight muscle near his rib cage, struck out looking against Reds closer David Weathers, who was called on for a six-out save. Geoff Jenkins then struck out swinging on a hit-and-run, and with Fielder caught between first and second base, Kevin Mench broke from third and was thrown out easily at home plate to end the inning.

"That was my fault," Yost said.

It was a set play, the manager said, which has come into play twice previously this season. On a two-strike count, if there are runners at first and third and a hit-and-run is called and the batter strikes out, the runners automatically treat it as a double steal. In a perfect scenario, the catcher throws down to second base and the runner who was at third is able to score before the runner who was at first gets tagged out or both runners are safe. The Brewers are 1-for-3 on the play this season, Yost said.

But the manager conceded that he should have never called for the hit-and-run in the first place.

"I just felt real strongly that Jenks was going to put the ball in play there," Yost said. "My intention was not to try and steal a run there. I felt like Jenks was going to put the ball in play. ... That's my fault."

Was Fielder surprised to see the hit-and-run sign?

"If they tell me to do something, I just do it," Fielder said. "I don't have any thoughts about it."

The scary moment came in the bottom of the eighth frame, when Wise came in the game and hit Pedro Lopez in the face with his first pitch. Lopez was on top of home plate for several minutes with a towel over his mouth before he was carted off. Then, Wise fell behind Javier Valentin, 3-0, but he fought back to strike him out; however, Norris Hopper and Scott Hatteberg followed with consecutive RBI doubles.

Lopez was taken to a local hospital, and Wise planned to visit him after the game.

"I hate to say it, but it was tough to get through," Wise said. "I've never done something like that before. It's disgusting to miss by that bad. The ball came out of my hand a little bit, and I just pushed it.

"There's not much I can do other than wish him well. I hope he gets better."

By the end of the inning, the Brewers were down, 7-3. Weathers pitched a perfect ninth for his 20th save.

"People can say, 'It's his job to get through,'" Wise said. "But I just hit a guy in the face. I saw his blood in the batter's box."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.