McCoy: Reds blow three-run lead, fall to first-place Brewers

Cincinnati now 8 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in NL Central Division

The Cincinnati Reds discovered Tuesday night that the Milwaukee Brewers are not one of those beatdown last-place teams they can beat up.

The first-place Brewers spotted the Reds a three-run lead through six innings, then outscored them by six runs in the seventh and eighth innings to post a 7-4 victory.

All six runs came against the Reds bullpen — Michael Lorenzen, Mychal Givens, Tejay Antone and Luis Cessa.

When it looked as if the Reds would pull to within 6 1/2 games of the National League Central Division lead, they instead fell back 8 1/2 games.

“Any loss is tough, especially this part of the year to a really good team that we’re trying to chase down,” said catcher Tucker Barnhart, who drove in two of the Reds four runs with a sacrifice fly and a single.

“We had the lead, then they put together some good at bats and grinded out some runs,” he added. “What we did early, they did to us late and flipped the script. That’s a really good team, man.”

Tyler Mahle struggled mightily in the first inning, a 31-pitch strugglefest. But despite going 3-and-2 on the first three hitters and giving up three hits, he escaped with only one run, a deep sacrifice fly to the center field wall by Avisail Garcia.

The Reds were facing one of the best, Cy Young candidate Corbin Burnes, 6-0 since the All-Star break. And he had given up one earned run in his last three starts.

The Reds, though, attacked him in the fourth inning for three runs when the first five reached base. Tyler Naquin walked, Nick Castellanos singled and Joey Votto walked to fill the bases with no outs.

Mike Moustakas singled to tie it, 1-1. Kyle Farmer singled to make it 2-1. The third run scored on Barnhart’s sacrifice fly.

The Reds pushed their lead to 4-1 in the sixth on a double by Moustakas and a single by Barnhart.

The first pitch Barnhart saw from Burnes forced a wild flail with the bat and Barnhart stepped out of the box and gave Burnes a smile. Then he struck out.

“After my first at bat I didn’t see myself being in that situation of getting a sacrifice fly and driving in another run with a single,” he said.

“That first pitch he threw me was the nastiest pitch that I’ve ever seen,” Barnhart added. “I was giving him hell and I said, 99 (miles per hour) inside would have been OK, but did you really have to hit 100?’ And he said it was the first time he hit 100 in his life and I said, ‘Oh, why did you have to do it to little ol’ me?’”

What teams do not want to do is fall behind after seven innings and face the terrible task of trying to score against Milwaukee’s 1-2 bullpen punch of Devin Williams in the eighth and Josh Hader in the ninth.

That’s exactly what happened.

The Brewers scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh against Lorenzen and Givens.

Lorenzen replaced Mahle in the sixth with two runners on and two outs and retired Rowdy Tellez on a full count fly ball.

But the first three Brewers singled in the seventh, Lorenzo Cain, pinch-hiiter Manny Pina and Kolten Wong for one run, the first run off Lorenzen this season.

When Lorenzen walked Jace Petrerson to load the bases with no outs, Givens replaced Lorenzen.

Christian Yelich hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3. Garcia hit his second sacrifice fly to tie it and with two outs Omar Narvaez doubled into the right-field corner to push the Brewers in front, 5-4.

“Give the Brewers credit and Michael has been pitching great,” said Reds manager David Bell. “Since he has come back (from the injured list) he has been amazing, done a great job. You have to give the Brewers credit for getting something going off of him. What can you say? He has been so good and it happens to the best of them.”

Williams pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and the Brewers made it easy for Hader in the ninth. Wong’s two-run home run off Cessa gave Hader a 7-4 lead to work with.

Hader retired pinch-hitter Tyler Stephenson on a come-backer, struck out pinch-hitter Eugenio Suarez and retired Aristides Aquino on a foul pop for his 27th save.

Adding to the Reds’ misery was a quick injury exit in the eighth inning by Tejay Antone. It was his first appearance after coming off the injured list. He threw five pitches to Tellez and grabbed his elbow and left the game.

“He felt something in his elbow, and it is very concerning,” said Bell. “He worked so hard to get back. He just loves pitching and competing so much. He loves to be here pitching and helping this team win, so he was very disappointed. It’s hard. We’ll know more tomorrow.”

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