CINCINNATI -- Despite an improved second half, the Reds' pitching staff still has the second-highest ERA in the National League. While there is no pride in that, Reds pitchers can puff their chests over posting back-to-back shutouts following Monday's 3-0 victory over the Brewers at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati has now won four games in a row.
Both Monday's win and Sunday's 8-0 victory over the Pirates came despite not getting a quality outing from the starter. Keyvius Sampson, who took the spot start when Anthony DeSclafani was skipped in the rotation, provided 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, two walks and striking out seven.
"You love that. It means the starting pitchers are going good and the relievers are doing good," Sampson said of the last two games for the team. "I know early on we struggled as relievers to come in the games and just get outs without giving up runs. Going out there and getting back-to-back shutouts means everyone is still in the game, even though we're in September and they're still going out there and attacking the zone."
It wasn't a jam-free performance as Sampson had to work out of a bases-loaded threat in the third, and he also loaded the bases in the fifth, giving up both of his walks. Blake Wood finished the fifth with a Hernan Perez flyout, as the Brewers went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position -- the only hit resulting in an out at the plate in the seventh -- and stranded eight on base.
Wood, Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Iglesias helped secure the shutout over the final 4 1/3 innings, with Iglesias retiring the final six batters in a row with three strikeouts for his third save.
For Brewers starter Wily Peralta, it must have felt like death by paper cuts in the bottom of the first inning. With a runner on first base and two outs, back-to-back infield hits to the shortstop extended the inning before Scott Schebler's soft-rolling two-run single to right-center field and Tyler Holt's bloop RBI single to right field made it a 3-0 game. Peralta went on to retire the next 15 straight batters and completed six innings with three runs, six hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
"It was a little frustrating there," Peralta said. "I made the pitches I want to make, got the ground ball, they found the hole," Peralta said. "The good thing was there was nothing hit that hard, just a lot of ground balls. After that, I settled in and did a much better job."
Milwaukee was 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight baserunners, taking its third loss in the last four games after winning seven of the previous eight.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Schebling along: The first runs of the game were provided in the bottom of the first by Schebler, who drove in two on a 3-1 pitch. Continuing to establish himself as the Reds' everyday right fielder, Schebler added a single in the sixth and is batting .340 (32-for-94) with 19 RBIs in his last 27 games since Aug. 15. Defensively in the top of the first, he also made a nice diving catch to rob Perez of a hit for the third out.
"It takes all the pressure off of us," Schebler said of the pitching setting up the lineup for success. "You go up to the plate and think, 'Man, if we get one run, you'll feel pretty good about it.' Them taking the pressure off of us has helped us offensively."
Out at home: For the second time on their road trip, Brewers third-base coach Ed Sedar found himself in an unwanted spotlight after sending a runner toward an out at the plate with Ryan Braun in the on-deck circle. Jonathan Villar reached on a fielder's choice in the seventh and moved into scoring position when Lorenzen balked. Scooter Gennett followed with a single to right fielder Steve Selsky, who came up throwing while Villar turned past Sedar and headed home. Villar was an easy out, denying Braun a chance to bat representing the tying run.
"We were kind of laid back today, and I got caught up; thought a play would happen and it didn't. That's my fault," Sedar said. "I got caught up in trying to make something happen that wasn't there."
Said Brewers manager Craig Counsell: "We've wanted to be aggressive all year with that. I didn't see the replay on Villar's jump or anything like that, but it's obvious that we got thrown out by quite a bit there, so it didn't work tonight."
Right on for Reds: Selsky was not the only Reds right fielder to make the highlight reel. Before driving in the game's first runs in the bottom of the first inning. Schebler contributed to the Brewers' frustrating night at the plate when he made a nice diving catch to rob cleanup hitter Perez of a hit with a runner aboard for the third out in the top of the first, sending Perez on his way to an 0-for-4 night with seven men left on base.
"Hernan had a couple of opportunities with two outs," Counsell said, "but we didn't get the leadoff runner on to create a big possibility all night."
One out shy of victory: Sampson threw 89 pitches in the game, his most since throwing 82 in a five-inning relief appearance at Milwaukee on Aug. 14. He started to tire in the fifth and walked Braun with two outs to bring manager Bryan Price out of the dugout for the pitching change. Wood was summoned, and he left the bases loaded without a run scoring for the third time this season. It meant Sampson did not qualify for the win since he didn't get the minimum five innings.
"Once he got the bases loaded, and you've got Perez up there," Price said. "He's a young guy having a terrific year. It just seemed like Woody needed to get in there, and he did close it out there in the fifth."
"I'm really happy for a lot of the guys in particular that have been here for the bulk of the year, if not all year, because it hasn't always been this way. We had some real challenges. We were plugging in some pitchers that weren't ready to be here. We were asking guys that hadn't been in certain roles maybe to take on those roles head-on. We had a lot of growing to do, and a lot of growing pains to go through, and we did. It's nice to come out on the other side and have some of these guys that tasted real struggle bounce back in the second half and perform at the level worthy of the effort they put in towards their craft." -- Price, on his pitching staff
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The last time the Reds recorded back-to-back shutouts was July 28-29, 2015, at St. Louis.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: Coming off a quality start against the Cubs, Matt Garza will be on the mound when the series continues Tuesday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Garza limited Chicago to one run on three hits over six innings on Wednesday at Miller Park, but he was replaced by a pinch-hitter because the Brewers needed offense in a low-scoring game that featured Keon Broxton's home run-robbing catch.
Reds:Dan Straily will get the start for the Reds against Milwaukee in Tuesday's 7:10 p.m. ET game. In two starts this season against Milwaukee, totaling 12 1/3 innings, he has allowed 13 hits but only two earned runs. On Aug. 13 at Miller Park, he was an 11-5 winner after giving up both of those runs on 10 hits.