MILWAUKEE -- Brewers get boost with sweep of Reds
As quickly as things can fall apart for a major-league team, they can come back together.
That's the way baseball is.
Of course, the baseball gods tend to help those who help themselves, which the Milwaukee Brewers did Wednesday afternoon at Miller Park by taking a 5-1 victory over the reeling Cincinnati Reds to complete a much-needed three-game sweep.
It was the first three-game winning streak for the Brewers since they took four in a row from June 25-28, pushing them two games ahead of St. Louis in the National League Central pending the Cardinals' night game against Tampa Bay.
"You're going to have ups and downs," said winning pitcher Kyle Lohse. "We went through a tough period, but we're still in first and we still know there's a lot of season left. We're just going to keep it going."
The sweep helped the Brewers wash away the 2-11 stumble into the All-Star break that threatened their first-place status as well as a losing weekend series in Washington. The Reds hit town missing two of their stars, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, so it was up to the Brewers' staff to outpitch a strong rotation on the other side.
The Brewers' pitchers were up to the task, holding the Reds to six runs in the three games.
"That's your opportunity to put together some nice ball games," manager Ron Roenicke said. "There are still some guys in their lineup you have to worry about but when you take out the two guys, those guys do a lot of damage against us.
"Then it comes down to their pitching staff. They have five good starters. When those starters are on that day, you know you're going to have to scratch out some runs, and that's what we felt we did in the series."
The biggest stress put on Lohse all day came from teammate Carlos Gomez, who tripled with his pitcher on first base in the fifth inning, leaving the 35-year-old veteran no choice but to score with the speedy centerfielder close behind.
"I looked up and (third base coach) Eddie (Sedar) was waving me in, so I knew I had to go," he said. "I figured Gomey was right behind me. I didn't want him to catch me. That would have been bad."
Beyond the strong outing (6 2/3 innings, four hits, one run) by Lohse, who boosted his record to 11-4, two encouraging signs emerged in the game for the Brewers as they go forward.
First baseman Mark Reynolds emerged from one of the worst slumps of his career with two home runs, perhaps signaling the start of a hot stretch for a hitter known for being streaky at the plate.
Then, there was the ninth-inning showing of reliever Jeremy Jeffress, who began his second chance in the organization with an eye-popping performance. Given the comfort of a four-run lead, Jeffress pitched a 1-2-3 inning with three groundouts, throwing some pitches at 99 mph before capping his day with a 100-mph fastball.
"You couldn't impress more than he did," Roenicke said. "That's some nice stuff there."
Brewers getting their first look at Jeffress were somewhat amazed at the stuff he showed.
"That's a breath of fresh air right there," Reynolds said. "He's always had the stuff but to come in and throw strike is huge for him. Seeing a guy throw 98, 100 mph is welcomed on any team. Hopefully, he kind of figured it out in the minor leagues. He can be a big addition to our club."
The Brewers have been trying to bolster their right-handed relief in front of closer Francisco Rodriguez, and general manager Doug Melvin has been scouring the trade market. But with so many teams looking for relief help, the price can be high, making it more palatable to fill a void from within.
As for that possible opportunity, Jeffress said, "To be honest, I felt very comfortable.
"It makes the manager trust in me a little bit more, maybe putting me in there in closer games. It just gives me a lot of confidence. We'll have to see what the manager wants and what he says. It would be very nice."
On the offensive side, a resurgence from Reynolds also would be huge for the Brewers. He had hit just one homer since June 2 before driving a two-run homer to left off Reds starter Mike Leake in the sixth inning to make it a 4-1 game. For good measure, he took hard-throwing reliever Jumbo Diaz deep in the eighth.
Beyond the power outage, Reynolds had struggled mightily to get on base, going 3-for-33 (.091) in July to drop his average to .199 entering the game. Even for a player known for his streakiness, that drought was tough to take.
"I've been making some adjustments and trying to quiet my head down, and remember it's a game and have fun," Reynolds said. "It was brutal, man.
"One game will get your confidence going. You'd like to see a stretch of consistency. That's kind of been my thing my whole career -- up and down, up and down. Hopefully, I can clear my head with this game and stay as consistent as I can the rest of the year."
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