By HAL McCOY
Robert Stephenson was better, but not good enough, probably not strong enough to preserve his spot in the Cincinnati Reds rotation.
That could change if the Reds manage to trade Matt Harvey in the next few days or if one of the other starters come up lame.
Manager Jim Riggleman expressed a desire to get out of his six-man rotation and return to five by the time the Reds open a three-game homestand Tuesday against the Brewers.
After two atrocious starts, Stephenson pitched five-plus inning Wednesday afternoon in Miller Park and gave up two runs while he was on the mound, although two more were charged to his account.
It didn’t much matter because the Reds were helpless against Milwaukee’s 22-year-old Freddy Peralta. He held them to no runs and three hits over seven innings and the Brewers scored a 4-0 victory to take two of three in the series.
Yelich, who had four hits, ripped Stephenson’s 2-and-2 breaking ball 414 feet far over the center field wall to give Milwaukee a 1-0 lead in the first.
It stayed 1-0 until the fourth. With one out, Ryan Braun lined one to left that Phillip Ervin caught while diving, but when he hit the ground the ball jarred loose for a double.
With two outs, Riggleman wisely elected to walk No. 8 hitter, catcher Manny Pina, to bring up Peralta, hitless in his major league career. He grounded a single up the middle to score Braun to lift the Brewers to a 2-0 lead.
Then came the two-run sixth and the Reds couldn’t find home plate.
Stephenson was charged with four runs on nine hits with three walks and four strikeouts. He committed two pitching sins. He gave up a leadoff home run to Christian Yelich to start the bottom of the first and gave up a run-scoring single to opposing pitcher Peralta, who was 0 for 23 with 11 strikeouts in his major league career.
Milwaukee led, 2-0, when the bottom of the sixth began and Stephenson gave up back-to-back singles to Jonathan Schoop and Manny Pina.
Manager Jim Riggleman replaced Stephenson with Wandy Peralta and he permitted both of Stephenson’s runners to score. After Freddy Peralta bunted the runners to third and second, Yelich blooped a run-scoring single to left and Lorenzo Cain beat an infield hit to second base that scored the fourth run.
Once the Reds got rid of Freddy Peralta, they staged a rally against relief pitcher Taylor Williams of Kent State.
With one out, Dilson Herrera blooped a single down the right field line, pinch-hitter Preson Tucker walked and Billy Hamilton loaded the bases with a bloop single to left with one out.
Jose Peraza popped up to shallow center for the second out, bringing up Scooter Gennett, who homered in the ninth inning to break a 7-7 tie en route to a 9-7 Cincinnati win.
Gennett’s home run on the first pitch was off left hander Dan Jennings. An Jennings was warming up in the bullpen, but manager Craig Counsell didn’t make the same mistake twice.
He brought in hard-throwing right hander Jeremy Jeffress (6-and-1, 1.36 earned run average). Gennett flied to left on the second pitch and the promising uprising withered like an unpicked pumpkin on the vine.
After they loaded the bases with one out in the eighth and couldn’t score, Jeffress made short work of the Reds in the ninth with a 1-2-3 ninth, the eighth time they’ve been shut out this season. It was the 11th shutout for Milwaukee pitchers to four for the Reds.