McCoy: Reds drop opening game of key series vs. Brewers

Second-place Cincinnati falls 7 games behind division-leading Milwaukee

It was a pressure-packed game and both the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers played most of it like nervous tee-ballers.

The Brewers landed the first stinging punch in Game One of a four-game series between the first-place Brewers and the second-place Reds.

The TKO was provided by Avisail Garcia, a two-run home run in the eighth inning that crashed against the black batter’s eye in dead center field.

The blast off Brad Brach on a 2-and-2 fastball broke a tie and lifted the Brewers to a 5-3 victory and pushed Milwaukee’s lead over the Reds to seven games in the NL Central Division standings.

ExploreGray hits injured list for third time this season

The game’s early runs were scored in odd ways and the early going was frustrating for the Reds.

They loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning against Milwaukee starter Adrian Houser. They didn’t score. Joey Votto struck out, Tyler Naquin struck out and Eugenio Suarez popped softly to second.

They loaded the bases with one out in the second. They didn’t score. Jesse Winker struck out and Nick Castellanos struck out.

They put two on with one out in the third. They didn’t score. Suarez hit into a double play.

“The key is not to let that affect you and our guys did a good job of it, staying with it taking the lead,” said manager David Bell. “We got those runs early and Houser did a really good job with his fastball.”

Meanwhile, the Brewers loaded the bases with no outs in the first. They scored twice. The first came on a 10-foot roller in front of the plate by Garcia. The second run came when Tyler Mahle walked Jace Peterson on four pitches to force in a run.

Cincinnati grabbed a 3-2 lead in the fifth with one hit. An error and two walks filled the bases with one out. Jake Cousins replaced Houser and, incredibly, threw back-to-back wild pitches with a run scoring on each one as Tucker Barnhart batted. That tied it and Barnhart untied it with a run-scoring single.

Milwaukee tied it, 3-3, in the sixth when Omar Narvaez led with a double and with two outs Keston Hiura hit one deep to left. It hit off Winker’s glove as Narvaez scored. The ball was catchable but it was ruled a double.

After Barnhart’s run-scoring single in the fifth, the next 13 Reds went down in order, perfect innings by Cousins, Cincinnati native Brent Suter, Devin Williams and Josh Hader.

“We had the bases loaded three times and only cashed in on it once,” said Barnhart.

Of the home run Brach gave up to Garcia, Barnhart said, “Part of the game. One of those things where he has been really good. Sometimes it happens. It was back-breaking and it’s no secret with who they had coming in for the ninth. He is as tough as it gets.”

That would be closer Hader, who closed it out by striking out pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson, retiring Jonathan India on a pop foul to first and ending it with a called strike three on a full count to Winker.

“I’m proud of our guys for battling back, having good at bats, especially the way the game started,” said Barnhart. “It could have spiraled quickly. We hung in there with a chance to tie the game in the ninth with a bloop and blast.”

There would be no bloop against Hader, let alone a blast.

About the Author