Lamb’s struggles continue as Brewers pound Reds

As Homer Bailey’s return to the Reds starting rotation gets closer, speculation as to whose job he will take grows almost daily.

John Lamb on Saturday may have charged into the lead of a race nobody wants to win.

The left-hander went into his start against the Milwaukee Brewers 0-3 over his last seven starts. He hadn’t won since allowing just six hits and one run over seven innings against the Rockies at Colorado’s Coors Field on June 1.

His losing streak accelerated against Milwaukee. Lamb (1-7) set a single-game career high by allowing nine runs and tied his single-game career low by lasting just two innings of the Brewers’ 9-1 win.

Manager Bryan Price left no doubt that Lamb’s job is in jeopardy.

“Why beat around the bush?” he said. “He certainly has to pitch better. We’re not in an environment where anything goes.”

Lamb knows it as well as anybody.

“Obviously, at some point, you’ve got to produce,” he said. “There are expectations. I’m not going out there believing I’m guaranteed to get the ball every five days. I hope I never think that way.”

Joey Votto piled up four hits for the 17th time in his career and first since Aug. 15, 2014, but Eugenio Suarez went 0-for-4 and is 3-for-29 since his hitting streak was snapped at seven games on July 3.

A crowd of 31,328 showed up for Zack Cozart Bobblehead Night and saw Cincinnati go down to its fourth loss in five games, but the Reds were outdrawn by Football Club Cincinnati, which drew a sellout crowd of 35,061 to the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium for an exhibition soccer match with Crystal Palace of England’s Premier League.

Jose Peraza, the highly regarded prospect acquired from the Dodgers as part of the three-team trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox in December, started at second base in place of the injured Brandon Phillips and singled in his first at bat. He stole second, improving to 10-for-10 in stolen base tries this season and 13-for-13 in his career.

Hernan Perez, the second batter of the game, started the slaughter with a two-run home run, and Milwaukee went on to add two more runs in the first. The Brewers broke it open with a five-hit, five-run third inning that started with Ryan Braun’s single and All-Star Jonathan Lucroy’s two-run homer, which left the catcher hitting .467 with five homers and 15 runs batted in against the Reds this season.

His homer came one pitch after manager Bryan Price apparently argued that Lamb had struck Lucroy out. Plate umpire Quinn Wolcott said Lucroy had tipped the ball. Price pursued the argument while relief pitcher Keyvius Sampson warmed up, and Wolcott handed the manager his third ejection of the season and eighth of his career.

“There was more into it than that, and we’ll leave it at that,” Price said. “Quinn does a great job. I have no problems with effort. We had a difference of opinion and it got out of hand.”

Even Brewers starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson got in on the act during Milwaukee’s 11-batter inning, using a “butcher boy” swing to hit a chopper over charging first baseman Joey Votto for a bases-loaded, two-run single.

Nelson (6-7), 0-4 in seven starts since beating the Reds, 5-4, on May 29, allowed six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings.

Lamb faced five batters without getting an out in the third. All five scored, boosting season earned-run average a rounded-off full run, from 5.43 to 6.43. His ERA since his last win reached 7.09.

The last time the Brewers scored nine runs in a game was on May 27 in a 9-5 win over the Reds at Milwaukee in a game started by Lamb, who gave up six runs in seven innings.

Sampson went on to set a career-high for relief innings with a bullpen-saving four, also the longest outing by a Reds relief pitcher this season.

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