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09/13/08 8:40 PM ET

Parra's struggles sink Brewers in Philly

Milwaukee's Wild Card lead at two games over Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA -- Brewers left-hander Manny Parra surrendered more runs on Saturday -- five -- than he recorded outs -- four.

Not exactly a formula for success.

Parra fell into an early hole, and the Brewers never recovered in a 7-3 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. It was Milwaukee's ninth loss in 12 games this month and one that left only two games separating the teams in the National League Wild Card race.

Despite losing nine of their 12 games this month, the Brewers still lead in that department. The Phillies will get a chance to forge a tie in Sunday's doubleheader.

"I was ineffective," Parra said. "That's the best word for it."

He wasn't alone. The Brewers were limited to two runs in 6 1/3 innings against Phillies starter Cole Hamels (13-9), and scored those runs with help. Philadelphia left fielder Pat Burrell misplayed a fourth-inning fly ball by Jason Kendall into a two-run double that briefly cut the Brewers' deficit to 5-2.

Ryan Braun snapped an 0-for-17 slump with his first home run since Aug. 31, but that came after the Phillies had tacked on two runs on Jimmy Rollins' homer off reliever Carlos Villanueva. Rollins scored three times, Chase Utley scored twice and Ryan Howard drove in two runs to put pressure on Milwaukee.

Braun set a career high with his 35th home run this season. He also ended a drought of 10 games without an RBI.

"It's insignificant," Braun said. "I would have rather gone 0-for-4 or 0-for-5 again and had us win a game at this point in the season. But obviously it's important for me to get going again. For us to turn it around, a big part is the middle of the lineup."

Hitting coach Jim Skaalen was ejected in the fourth after a dispute with third-base umpire Ron Kulpa during a Prince Fielder at-bat. The Brewers insist Fielder was struck on the hand by a Hamels pitch, but Kulpa instead ruled it a swinging strike. Fielder later singled, but not before Skaalen was tossed.

Skaalen was spared from another brutal offensive performance by the slumping Brewers, who were 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. The team has scored 34 runs in its 12 games this month while hitting .160 (17-for-106) with runners in scoring position.

"Tired? Look, we're in a pennant race and it's September. No. Nice excuse. He hasn't pitched well [but] his stuff is fine. His location is off. He pitches in spurts. He pitches good for a couple of good innings and then he has a bad inning and he doesn't contain the damage."
-- Ned Yost, on Manny Parra

"I saw some really good signs from us offensively," manager Ned Yost said Saturday.

Said right fielder Corey Hart: "We have to figure out how to hit before the year is over if we want to make the playoffs."

The Astros, winners of 14 of their past 15 games but idle Saturday because of Hurricane Ike, sit just 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card standings.

Pitching on national TV, Parra (10-8) was tagged for five runs on seven hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings, the shortest start by a Brewer this season. He has lost six of his past seven decisions, and has surrendered at least four earned runs in two of his past three starts.

"When I made my pitch, I gave up hits. When I didn't make my pitch, I still gave up hits," Parra said. "I was just ineffective. There were a couple of [good] pitches I made, and they were just on it. They were seeing the ball pretty well."

Howard's two-run single in the second -- which prompted the first call to the bullpen -- was an example of a good pitch gone bad, Parra said. It was an inside fastball that registered 96 mph.

"That was the pitch I thought I was supposed to make," Parra said.

Ditto for the changeup that Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino hit for an RBI single and a 3-0 Phillies lead in the first, Parra said. Mostly, the Phillies waited for Parra to fall behind to turn to his fastball.

"I can just see their game plan," he said. "They're just hitting the fastball."

Hamels had no such trouble. He was charged with two runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings for the win while striking out four.

Cue the concerns about Parra's workload, which hit 160 innings on Saturday. The 25-year-old threw 133 innings in 2007, a year cut short when he fractured his left thumb trying to bunt against the Cubs. It was his heftiest regular-season workload since Parra threw 138 2/3 innings at Class A Beloit in '03. He suffered the first of a series of arm injuries the following season.

In the past, the Brewers have capped pitchers at about 30 innings over the previous year's total. But manager Ned Yost blew off concerns that Parra may be tired.

"Tired?" Yost said. "Look, we're in a pennant race and it's September. No. Nice excuse. He hasn't pitched well [but] his stuff is fine. His location is off. He pitches in spurts. He pitches good for a couple of good innings and then he has a bad inning and he doesn't contain the damage. It's a struggle for Manny at times, once it falls apart, to regain it."

Parra insisted that fatigue is not a factor.

"I feel perfectly fine," he reassured on Saturday. "It's pretty disheartening. I'm glad I'm feeling good and strong, but I feel healthy and I'm not effective."

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