|Milwaukee Brewers (72-67)||3||5||1|
|Cincinnati Reds (60-79)||9||11||0|
|W: Robert Stephenson (4-4) L: Zach Davies (16-8) SV: Raisel Iglesias (25)|
|FanGraphs Win Probability | Box Score | Game Thread | Statcast|
When a club is out of playoff contention in September, playing the spoiler to other teams’ postseason chances is often all that’s left to play for. The Reds are relishing that role against the Brewers.
For a second straight day, Cincinnati dealt a loss to its division rival, keeping Milwaukee on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. With a second consecutive Cubs loss, the Brewers remain 3.5 games out of first in the NL Central, but they’ve dropped to two games back in the Wild Card (and the Rockies are winning as of this writing, which would drop the Brewers to 2.5 games out).
Here’s how tonight’s game went down:
The good news: Robert Stephenson fired six solid innings, allowing only one run on four hits and striking out seven. The double-play ball was his best friend, as he induced three of them on the night.
The bad news: he needed those double plays because he walked five Brewers hitters, including opposing pitcher Zach Davies — twice.
Those command lapses aside, though, Stephenson again gave reasons for fans to be encouraged, particularly in the fourth inning. After allowing only two baserunners through the first three innings, he allowed two walks and a single to load the bases with nobody out. From there, the game got out of hand — or at least, that’s probably what I would’ve written three or four months ago. Instead, Stephenson buckled down and didn’t allow the Brewers to put another ball in play, striking out the next three hitters to escape the jam unscathed.
After getting double plays to erase walks in each of the next two innings, Stephenson was sent back out to the mound for the seventh inning with 93 pitches. Had he recorded one out, it would’ve been his longest outing of the season, but he gave up back-to-back doubles and was pulled from the game.
The wildness continued for the Reds bullpen.
Asher Wojciechowski walked two batters to load the bases after relieving Stephenson, but he preserved the lead with a pair of strikeouts and a free out given up on a sacrifice bunt.
With the lead stretched to six in the eighth, Ariel Hernandez couldn’t find the plate. Despite his electric stuff, he’s been known for his wildness at times, and that was on display tonight. He walked Ryan Braun to lead off the inning and allowed a two-run home run to next batter Travis Shaw. After walking the next two hitters, Hernandez was lifted in favor of Raisel Iglesias.
As you’d expect, Iglesias didn’t allow either inherited runner to move, retiring the next three hitters.
Although the offense tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth, Iglesias finished out the game for his 25th save.
The Reds couldn’t put much together against Davies, but they did enough to get to the Brewers’ bullpen early and blow the game wide open.
They jumped out in front in the third frame thanks to some shaky defense from Jonathan Villar in center field. The inning started with Villar dropping a fly ball from Stephenson (which was initially ruled as Stephenson’s first career double but later changed to an error). Two batters later, Zack Cozart floated a line drive into center field that got by Villar, resulting in an RBI double.
There were no more runs to be had until the sixth inning, when Scooter Gennett lined a two-out double to left-center field and scored on an opposite-field single by Eugenio Suarez to chase Davies from the game.
The Reds’ offense exploded for five runs in the seventh against the Brewers’ bullpen. The scoring was capped by a three-run home run from Gennett, his 24th (!) of the season, against the team that designated him for assignment during spring training.
For good measure, they tacked on two more in the eighth, highlighted by a successful safety squeeze bunt by Billy Hamilton.
— Stephenson’s 11-strikeout game was impressive, but striking out the side after loading the bases in the fourth inning may have been the highlight of his return to the rotation. Yes, in an ideal world, he wouldn’t have loaded the bases with no outs and he wouldn’t have walked five batters. That’s clearly something he needs to clean up. But you also want to see poise from young pitchers when they get into trouble — just like Luis Castillo has all year — and that’s what Stephenson showed tonight.
— Since allowing 39 runs over a four-game stretch from August 19–23, Reds pitchers have not allowed more than five runs in any of the last 12 games. Over that time, the starters have a 2.82 ERA. That’ll do.
— Reds pitchers walked 10 batters tonight. Not many teams win ballgames when they do that. Even fewer teams will only allow three runs when they do that.
The Reds will look to complete their first sweep since early June when they took four straight from the Cardinals. Luis Castillo (3.32 ERA, 3.61 xFIP) will make his final start of the season tomorrow afternoon before he is shut down due to his innings limit. For those who missed it, he’ll be replaced in the starting rotation by Amir Garrett this weekend. Matt Garza (4.77 ERA, 5.14 xFIP) will take the mound for the Brew Crew. The afternoon matinee is set to begin at 12:35 p.m. ET.