MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Brewers picked an unlikely evening to end their run of slow starts.
Justin Smoak homered and drove in three runs as Milwaukee cooled off Trevor Bauer and snapped a four-game skid with a 4-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.
Smoak’s first-inning RBI single put the Brewers ahead for good. Before Monday, the Brewers had been outscored 37-5 in the opening two innings of games this season.
“It was really helpful,” said Brewers catcher Omar Narvaez, who added a solo shot. “You kind of breathe a little bit more when you call the game when you’re ahead.”
Getting an early lead was unusual enough for the Brewers. Doing it against Bauer was even more surprising.
Bauer (3-1) began the game with an 0.68 ERA that led the majors. The last time he’d faced the Brewers, Bauer had struck out 12 while allowing one run and three hits over six innings in an 8-3 Cincinnati victory on Aug. 7.
This time, he fell behind 4-0 in the first four innings.
“They battled,” Bauer said. “They put up really good at-bats all night long. You’ve really got to give theme credit. It was a lot different game than the first time I faced them. They clearly understood what I was trying to do and fought along with me, and when I made some mistakes, they didn’t miss them. They hit a lot of balls hard.”
This four-game series matches two NL Central rivals trying to bounce back from disappointing starts as the abbreviated season approaches its halfway point. They entered Monday’s game with identical 11-15 records, putting them 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs.
The Brewers were opening a 10-game homestand after getting swept over the weekend by the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.
“The last three days in Pittsburgh, that’s not who we are as a team,” Smoak said. “We didn’t play great, but coming home, knowing we’re going to be here for a while and in a short season, you have to go out there every day and try to win ballgames no matter how you do it. Our pitching has been great. We just have to score some runs, and I feel like we’re more than capable of doing that.”
Smoak gave Milwaukee a first-inning lead by hitting a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a two-out single that brought home Christian Yelich, who had doubled.
Bauer ran into trouble again with two outs in the third when he hit Keston Hiura with a pitch. Smoak again delivered on a full-count pitch, hitting a drive into the right-field seats. The Brewers made it 4-0 when Narvaez delivered his leadoff drive in the fourth.
Brewers starter Brett Anderson (2-2) held the Reds scoreless for the first five innings before allowing leadoff homers to Curt Casali in the sixth and Eugenio Suarez in the seventh. Anderson, who left after the Suarez shot, allowed five hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
Devin Williams, David Phelps and Josh Hader held the Reds hitless the rest of the way. Hader gave up a leadoff walk to Joey Votto in the ninth but retired the next three batters to earn his sixth save.
Hader has worked 8 1/3 innings this season and still hasn’t allowed a hit.
The Reds reinstated right-handed reliever Robert Stephenson from the injured list and designated left-handed reliever Cody Reed for assignment.
Stephenson had been dealing with a back strain. Reed was 0-1 with a 5.79 ERA in nine games, though he hadn’t allowed a run in his last five appearances.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell wore a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt to his pregame media availability and opened the session by discussing the police shooting of a Black man that sparked protests in the Milwaukee suburb of Kenosha.
A video that went viral Sunday showed 29-year-old Jacob Blake getting shot, apparently in the back, as he leaned into his SUV while his three children sat inside the vehicle. Blake was hospitalized and in serious condition Monday.
“A Black man was shot and his life is in peril, and it frankly shouldn’t be,” Counsell said. “We’ve got a systemic problem that we need to address, and we all need to educate ourselves. Whether you agree or disagree with what I’m saying, I think it’s important that we continue to think, we continue to pursue policy change, we continue to act, because there’s violence happening that just absolutely should not be happening. We can’t stay quiet about it.”
Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo (0-3, 4.44 ERA) matches up with Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff (1-2, 3.23).
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