Reds’ bats quiet in 8-1 lossPublished 1:45am Thursday, September 27, 2012
CINCINNATI (AP) — For the first time since they clinched the NL Central title, the Cincinnati Reds looked like a team with little at stake.
Brandon Phillips doesn’t want to see that again.
Shaun Marcum got his first win since returning from an elbow problem, and Ryan Braun hit his NL-leading 41st home run on Wednesday night, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to an 8-1 victory that helped their flickering wild-card chances.
Cincinnati managed only six hits and stranded nine runners, the Reds’ most disappointing game offensively since they clinched the division on Saturday night.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know what it is,” said Phillips, who was 0 for 5 and made the final out. “I don’t know why we’re not getting hits. Maybe it’s because we made the playoffs. But we need to wake up. We’re just not getting it done right now. I feel like we need to step it up, especially me.”
The Reds played all of their healthy regulars even though they clinched on Saturday. Bench coach Chris Speier made out the lineup and checked with manager Dusty Baker, who changed it slightly.
Baker was hospitalized four days in Chicago last week for treatment of an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. The 63-year-old manager visited the ballpark in the afternoon. Baker hopes to return to managing for the final series in St. Louis next week.
Cincinnati fell a game behind Washington for best record in the majors and the top seed in the NL playoffs. The Reds conclude the series against Milwaukee on Thursday, then end the regular season with three games in Pittsburgh and three in St. Louis.
Speier wasn’t concerned by one bad performance.
“We’d like to start hitting on all cylinders shortly,” Speier said. “Every team wants to be hitting and pitching (well) going into the players. I think things will take care of themselves tomorrow or the next day.”
The Brewers won the division last season, but are reduced to a desperate surge toward the last remaining playoff spot. They moved to 3 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild card when the Cardinals lost to Houston 2-0. The Dodgers are also 3 1/2 back.
At this point, it’s a matter of playing well enough to extend the NL’s final race. The Brewers have done their part, winning 26 of 34 while keeping the Cardinals in range.
“We’re playing really good,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “At this point where we’ve put ourselves, unfortunately we need help from somebody. But if we continue to play well, it gives us a chance that somebody can get hot and come in and beat them.
“At this point, they’re all critical games. They’re not going to lose that much.”
Marcum (6-4) went six innings for his first victory since returning from an elbow problem, allowing only four hits, including Joey Votto’s RBI double.
Norichika Aoki homered to start a three-run third inning off Bronson Arroyo (12-9) and added an RBI double. Braun, the NL’s Most Valuable Player last season, hit a two-run shot in the seventh off Logan Ondrusek.
Jonathan Lucroy also homered and had three hits.
Marcum saved Milwaukee’s slim hopes for another day by emerging from his rut. The right-hander went on the disabled list in June with tightness in his right elbow. He was 0-1 with a 5.16 ERA in his first six games back, but finally got that elusive win on Wednesday.
Votto’s RBI double in the first caromed off the wall in left field, a few feet from the top. It was an encouraging sign for Votto, who hasn’t homered in his 18 games back from knee surgery. The first baseman missed 48 games because of torn cartilage and doesn’t expect the knee to be back to normal until next season.
Votto, the NL’s Most Valuable Player in 2010, is batting .339 with 20 walks and one hit-by-pitch since his return.
Arroyo had been in one of his good stretches, going 5-1 in his last eight starts with a 2.60 ERA. The Brewers put together five consecutive hits with two outs in the third for a 3-1 lead. Aoki hit his 10th homer to start the rally.
“I felt like I had pretty good stuff, but for some reason, they were (ignoring) balls just off the plate, and the ball seemed to be jumping tonight,” Arroyo said.
NOTES: Aoki’s homer broke an 0-for-14 slump. … Lightning drew oohs from the crowd as a small storm moved just south of the ballpark in the second inning. There was no rain and the game continued without delay. … Braun’s homer moved him ahead of Cecil Cooper into fifth place on the franchise homer list with 202. He hit 33 homers last season. … Reds C Ryan Hanigan was back after missing one game with a bruised shoulder.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay