MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers squandered their opportunity in the eighth inning, and the Reds made the most of an opening in the ninth. That was the difference Wednesday between what could have been an uplifting Brewers victory against Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto, and instead became a 2-1 Reds win over Milwaukee closer Francisco Rodriguez.
Pitching in the ninth inning of a tie game, Rodriguez committed the cardinal sin of walking speedster Billy Hamilton with one out. Hamilton moved to third on Joey Votto's single and scored when Rodriguez bounced a changeup for a two-out wild pitch that sent Milwaukee to its eighth straight loss, and positioned the Reds to aim for a sweep of the four-game series on Thursday.
"I'm mad about everything, dude," Rodriguez said. "It's miserable. Not getting your job done, it's miserable. It's bad. That's the bottom line."
That sequence came moments after the Brewers put a runner on third base with one out against Cueto, but couldn't score. In the next half-inning, Rodriguez's 0-1 pitch to Brandon Phillips bounced in front of catcher Martin Maldonado and squirted to the right of home.
"He kind of throws a bunch of balls in the dirt, the split-finger in the dirt and the curveball," Hamilton said of Rodriguez. "That's something you have to be ready for. If it bounces on the grass, I've got to get there, no matter what."
He did, forgoing a slide and racing past a tag by Rodriguez to account for the winning run.
"The other thing that may go unnoticed there is the fact that Billy didn't run [with Votto at the plate]," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He forced Rodriguez to throw from his slidestep delivery, and it was very efficient. He was 1.1 seconds to the plate, which is very efficient. But I thought [he] forced him to elevate, make some mistakes, and he left one up to Joey for that base hit to make it first and third."
"That's what speed does," Reds catcher Brayan Pena said. "Every time [Hamilton] goes out there and gets on base, something special happens."
It's a darker picture for the Brewers, who became the 14th National League team to lose 13 times in the span of its first 15 games.
"It's hard [to block those changeups], especially when it's down like that ball was down. You don't know where it's going to bounce," Maldonado said. "At the same time, a man on third base and two outs … I didn't do my job there. I have to block that pitch."
On top of the loss, Rodriguez will have to be evaluated on Thursday after tweaking a wrist in a collision with Hamilton at home plate.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke would not second-guess his choice of Rodriguez over left-hander Will Smith, with two left-handed batters due for the Reds.
"Actually, Frankie's numbers are way better against lefties than righties, so it was really no question,' Roenicke said, referring to Rodriguez's splits over the past three seasons. "The inning before, it was a question trying to figure that out [whether to use Smith], but no, I liked Frankie coming in there."
How can the Brewers recover from their poor start?
"Fighting through it, going through it, keep working hard and just go out there and compete every single day," Rodriguez said. "Give everything we've got. That's pretty much the bottom line of what we have to do."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.