By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds failed to complete a three-game sweep Wednesday afternoon in Miller Park, losing to the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-4.
Don’t lay the blame at the feet of Reds starting pitcher Lucas Sims. He was outstanding as a stand-in starter.
Nobody likes to see anybody on the injured list, but the fact that Tyler Mahle had to be place there may be a blessing for the Reds.
The Reds were 4-and-15 in Mahle’s 19 starts. They are 1-and-1 in the two emergency starts by Sims.
And he could be 2-and-0 if not for a meltdown Wednesday by relief pitcher Amir Garrett.
Sims took a 4-2 lead into the fifth inning when he gave up a leadoff home run to Milwaukee’s crackling hot rookie Keston Hiura.
Then he walked Orlando Arcia on a full count. Tyler Saladino tried to bunt and Sims sprinted off the mound and made a diving catch in foul territory between home and third base, an outstanding play.
Jesus Aguilar popped to shallow left for the second out. But Lorenzo Cain singled to center, putting runners on second and first.
With Christian Yelich digging in at home plate, a left hander, Reds manager David Bell decided to bring in left hander Amir Garrett.
Sims had retired Yelich twice, once on a strikeout and once on a routine fly ball.
Garrett threw a wild pitch, moving the runners to third and second. Then he walked Yelich on a full count to fill the bases.
That brought up switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal and he poked a two-run single to left field, pushing Milwaukee in front, 5-4.
And that was that for the Reds.
The Reds had taken a 4-2 lead in the third on a mammoth home run by Josh VanMeter, a 461-foot blast — longest by a Reds batter this season and longest by a visiting player in Miller Park this year.
VanMeter played third base while the scorching-hot Eugenio Suarez took a day off. VanMeter was extremely Suarez-like. He had a single, double, home run and drove in two runs.
But after VanMeter’s home run, the Reds mustered only three hits.
Milwaukee’s left handed strikeout machine, Josh Hader, pitched the seventh and eighth and struck out five. The only Reds batter to reach base was Jose Iglesias.
He poked a two-out, two-strike single to right field. And there was significance. Hitters were 0 for 59 with two strikes against Hader.
Freddy Peralta pitched the ninth and recorded his first career save with a 1-2-3 ninth, the first two outs on strikeouts and the last out a fly ball to left by Joey Votto.
The Reds started the game the way they have so often this season, scoring runs.
But they paid a price. Nick Senzel led the game with a single then immediately left the game with what the team termed as illness. Senzel has a history of vertigo.
Phillip Ervin replaced him and stole second. With two outs, Yasiel Puig walked on four pitches. VanMeter singled home a run and Scooter Gennett doubled home another.
It stayed, 2-0, though, when Iglesias struck out with runners on third and second.
The Brewers quickly tied it, 2-2, in the bottom of the first after Sims struck out the first two. But he walked Grandal on four pitches and Ryan Braun cleared the center field fence with home run.
The Reds regained the lead in the second, scoring a run after the first two hitters struck out. Phillip Ervin singled and took second on left fielder Braun’s error. He scored on Votto’s single to make it 3-2.
VanMeter’s home run in the third made it 4-2 and after the inning Milwaukee starter, 10-game loser Jhoulys Chacin was removed.
The Brewers bullpen of Alex Claudio, Matt Albers, Josh Hader and Freddy Peralta took it from there.
In addition to losing Senzel, the Reds also lost catcher Juan Graterol. He left in the third inning when a foul ball by Lorenzo Cain knocked off his mask.
The Reds already have three catchers on the injured list — Tucker Barnhart, Curt Casali and Kyle Farmer, although Farmer is ready to return if he passes a concussion protocol Friday.
Sims pitched 4 2/3 innings and gave up five runs (only three while he was on the mound), five hits, two walks and he struck out five. Probably because of the 20-second pitch clock in the minors, Sims works like a guy rushing to finish things so he can go play golf before it gets dark.
Bell told the media in his post-game comments that because Sims pitched in relief two days ago and warmed up for another game the Reds hoped to get five innings from him.
“But with Yelich up there, well, we thought that was the game,” said Bell. And it certainly was, on the negative side.
And the day-time problems persist for the Reds. They are 13-and-30 without lights and the defeat ended their five-game winning streak over the Brewers. It was another one-run loss and the Reds are 15-and-21 in those games, 7-and-14 on the road.
After winning two of three on the short trip to Milwaukee, the Reds take Thursday off before opening a three-game home series Friday night against Colorado. They follow that with a three-game series against Pittsburgh, probably an argument for last place.