With Milwaukee’s best against Cincinnati’s best, it was a matter of who would blink first, Brandon Woodruff or Luis Castillo.
Castillo blinked twice and Woodruff never did and it played to a 4-1 victory for the Milwaukee Brewers over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night at American Family Field.
As a result, the Reds toppled to 9 1/2 games behind Milwaukee, first place in the National League Central Division. With only 34 games remaining, it would take a major collapse by the Brewers to blow their lead.
Castillo gave up a run in the fourth and a run in the seventh while Woodruff gave up no runs, four weakly hit singles, walked nobody and struck out 10.
“When I came to the ballpark, I told myself, ‘OK, we gotta win this game. We gotta win this game. We really have to win this game,’” said Castillo, who gave up two runs and four hits over 6 1/3 innings, only to see his record dip to 7-13. “That’s what my mentality was, too, and I had a good outing, too. It didn’t go our way.”
That’s because Woodruff wouldn’t let it go any way but his way.
“Woodruff, right there … that’s about as good of stuff as you’re going to have,” said Reds manager David Bell. “His fastball was dominant. To me, that was the game, that was the difference. That’s a pretty special fastball he has, with a breaking ball to go with it.”
“You can’t really pitch much better than that,” said Bell. “You like to win games when your starting pitcher has that stuff that Luis had tonight. Unfortunately, he went up against another really good one.”
Castillo agreed. He did all he could.
“Really satisfied,” he said. “Really satisfied with my performance today. I was competing very well and I have a marvelous team that can back me up.”
But not on this night, not with Woodruff in untouchable mode.
The night also belonged to Milwaukee right fielder Avisail Garcia. Offensively, he drove in a run with a double and scored the game’s second run on Jace Peterson’s two-out single.
Defensively, he thwarted a Reds rally in sixth by throwing out Nick Castellanos at second when Castellanos tried to stretch a single into a double. And in the eighth he went above the right-field wall to snag a home run bid hit by pinch-hitter Max Schrock.
Garcia’s fourth-inning run-scoring double came after Christian Yelich led off the inning with a double.
“He hit a slider,” said Castillo. “I tried my best to locate it well but it hung in the middle of the plate and he put good contact on it.”
The Reds frittered away a scoring opportunity against Woodruff in the first when they had runners on third and second with one out.
But Joey Votto was called out on strikes on a dubious full-count call and Mike Moustakas grounded out to first.
Their only other threat was in the sixth when Jonathan India singled with one out. That’s when Castellanos blooped a hit to right and was thrown out at second. That put India at third with two outs, but Votto flied to left.
The Brewers scored two insurance runs in the eighth via some sloppy play by the Reds with Amir Garrett on the mound.
Garrett walked Kolten Wong to start the inning. With one out, third baseman Moustakas made a wild throw to first for an error, sending Wong to third. He scored on Garrett’s wild pitch to make it 3-0.
When the Brewers filled the bases, Jeff Hoffman replaced Garrett and the Brewers scored their fourth run on a ground ball.
After Woodruff left after six, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell used his talent-laden bullpen to clean this one up.
Former Reds No. 1 draft pick Brad Boxberger pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, change-up artist Devin Williams pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.
With no save situation, Counsell did not use closer Josh Hader in the ninth. Instead Jake Cousins finished it. He gave up a mammoth one-out home run to Castellanos, Then he struck out Votto and Moustakas. The Reds struck out 16 times.
The Reds finished with five hits, two by Tyler Naquin (a bunt single and a bloop single) to extend his hitting streak to 14 games and two by Castellanos.
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