MILWAUKEE -- Off to a historically poor 15-game start to the season, the Brewers are forced to search for something, anything, to lift their spirits. On Wednesday, they found it in 25-year-old right-hander Jimmy Nelson.
"You have to stay positive," catcher Martin Maldonado said after the 2-1 loss to the Reds -- the club's eighth straight to drop its record to 2-13. "I think Jimmy threw the ball nasty today. You're going one-on-one with Johnny Cueto, you're pitching your [tail] off out there. He kept us in the ballgame, throwing strikes, getting people put, striking people out. That's all you can ask for."
Nelson had a subpar Spring Training, but he is the only Brewers starting pitcher with an ERA below 5.40 after three full turns through the rotation. He surrendered successive singles to start the game and fell in a 1-0 hole, then allowed only one more single through the end of the eighth.
Nelson did walk two batters, but he struck out five, induced three double plays and snapped the Brewers' streak of nine straight games without a quality start, the franchise's longest such drought since 2001. The Brewers have three quality starts all season; Nelson accounts for two. His ERA fell to 1.35.
He did that while dueling Cueto, who won after holding the Brewers to one run on four hits in eight innings for his fourth quality start in as many outings.
"You are trying to get better every day. That's all I'm trying to do, get better every day and give us a chance to win," Nelson said. "That was a tough one today, but we showed [by scoring 10 runs on Tuesday] that we can hit. We have full confidence that we are going to break out of this. This isn't our team. We're a lot better than this and we know we're going to play better."
Nelson was stuck with a no-decision after the Brewers squandered a scoring opportunity against Cueto in the bottom of the eighth inning, then lost in the ninth on Francisco Rodriguez's run-scoring wild pitch.
"It is a big mental thing," Nelson said of the Brewers' team-wide slump. "You know you will break out of it. It is not a matter of if you are or aren't going to break out of it. You know you are. We're ready to break out of it, and we all think we will."
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.