MILWAUKEE -- The ease with which Roberto Hernandez carved through a Brewers lineup that has occupied first place for 92 straight days could indicate that Milwaukee's grip on the National League Central is not as firm as once believed.
The Philadelphia Phillies starter, who allowed four first-inning runs Sunday in a grotesque start against Pittsburgh, fired just 84 pitches Wednesday to complete eight innings in a 4-1 win over Milwaukee. The maligned sinkerballer, signed as a fifth starter in a rotation teeming with such arms, threw his best start of the season. The game took 2 hours, 15 minutes.
It is a small consolation prize at this juncture, when three straight wins against a slumping Brewers team represent a brief detour from the dismantling that could soon arrive for these Phillies, who are 11 games under .500.
Ryne Sandberg robbed Hernandez of a chance at his first complete game since July 30, 2013. The Phillies manager opted for closer Jonathan Papelbon, asked to register a save for the third consecutive day, in the ninth. Papelbon did it on nine pitches; it fluffed his trade value but made him unavailable for Thursday's series finale.
Hernandez had thrown 101 or more pitches in each of his previous four starts. He surpassed the 84-pitch mark in 12 of his first 16 starts. It marked the first time a Phillies pitcher threw eight innings on 85 or fewer pitches without finishing the complete game since Jon Lieber in 2005.
Hernandez was never tested by a Brewers lineup that did not include Ryan Braun or Jonathan Lucroy. He threw 64 pitches in six innings. He retired the side in the seventh on seven pitches, and needed just 13 in the eighth.
The lone Milwaukee run scored in the second inning because Ben Revere's arm does not threaten the opposition. Lyle Overbay cracked a broken-bat single up the middle. Aramis Ramirez, standing near second, froze. The 36-year-old third baseman is one of the game's slower runners. Even with a delayed start, Milwaukee third-base coach Ed Sedar waved Ramirez home.
Revere's throw two-hopped the catcher, Cameron Rupp, who had to scurry up the third-base line to fetch it.
The Phillies' double-play tandem smashed home runs to support Hernandez. Chase Utley lashed his second in three nights -- a laser to right field in the first inning. Jimmy Rollins broke an 0-for-20 skid with a two-run blast in the sixth inning. That was the 23rd time both Utley and Rollins homered in the same game.
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