Rallying Brewers avoid history, but fall late

Rallying Brewers avoid history, but fall late

Rallying Brewers avoid history, but fall late
CINCINNATI -- In some perverse way, Bronson Arroyo might have done the Brewers a favor had he finished his no-hitter on Tuesday night. He could have spared the Brewers their ninth consecutive loss by one or two runs, and spared closer John Axford another maddening night on which one little mistake decided the game.

He also could have spared the Brewers the indignity of watching an opponent somersault his way off the mound after a game-ending strikeout.

Reds closer Aroldis Chapman tumbled not once but twice toward his catcher after sealing Cincinnati's 4-3 win over the Brewers at Great American Ball Park.

"I didn't see it," Brewers right fielder Corey Hart said. "I don't care."

What did matter was the Brewers' fourth straight loss, one that began with six stellar innings from recently reinstated right-hander Marco Estrada, who set a career high with 12 strikeouts but was burned by Jay Bruce's three-run home run in the sixth, and 7 2/3 even better innings from Arroyo, who was five outs shy of the Reds' first no-hitter since 1988.

Both wound up with no-decisions after a wild eighth inning that saw the Brewers spoil Arroyo's night with a three-run flurry, only to lose after Drew Stubbs hit Axford's first pitch for a winning home run.

The loss guaranteed that the Brewers would leave Cincinnati on Wednesday night further from first place than they arrived. At 33-41, they trail the National League Central-leading Reds by 8 1/2 games.

The close losses "wear on you," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "They do. Because you know there was probably one thing you could do in that ballgame to win it for you."

The Brewers' tough stretch happens to coincide with Axford's. Since June 12, the Brewers are 5-9 and Axford is 3-for-6 in save opportunities with three losses, more blown saves and more losses than he suffered all of last season. He made a rare appearance Tuesday in the eighth inning of a tie game, Roenicke said, because the Brewers determined earlier in the day that Axford needed the work. He had not pitched since saving a 1-0 win over the White Sox on Friday.

Axford never had a chance to settle in. Stubbs, one day removed from the disabled list, hit a first-pitch fastball over the center-field fence.

"Everything else in that inning was great," Axford said. "I'm almost at a loss for words now, it seems like. It's just kind of exhausting. Even when I feel good and things seem to be clicking, one pitch, one play, one something happens that turns everything else around on me."

The story was so different for the first seven-plus innings, as Arroyo carved his way through the Brewers' lineup with a mixture of 90-mph fastballs and his usual array of arm angles and breaking pitches. Milwaukee's only baserunner in those seven innings was Ryan Braun, who was struck by a full-count fastball with two outs in the first.

This was not the sort of night Roenicke was hoping for when he sat right-handed-hitting regulars Hart and Rickie Weeks, and instead stacked his lineup with five left-handed bats plus the switch-hitting Cesar Izturis. Left-handers had hit Arroyo at a .339 clip this season.

"It took a long time for that left-handed matchup to work," Roenicke said, shaking his head.

But some of those bats finally came alive in the eighth.

Arroyo walked catcher George Kottaras with one out on a close curveball, then surrendered his first hit on another curve, which second baseman Taylor Green deposited a few feet inside the right-field foul line. Hart followed with a pinch-hit, two-run double, and scored the tying run two batters later on Norichika Aoki's single.

Just like that, Arroyo had lost his no-hitter, his shutout and his chance to win. Lefty reliever Sean Marshall took over with the teams tied at 3.

"Once I got through the meat of the order with Braun and [Aramis] Ramirez in the seventh there, I thought we had a chance to do it," Arroyo said. "It was just disappointing to lose the lead. To work that hard in the ballgame and have a gem like that and walk away with a no-decision like that is just terrible."

It began with the walk, Hart said.

"I think George kind of started us off," he said. "[Arroyo] didn't have anybody on base to put pressure on you, and I think [the walk] started it up, and maybe he got the ball up so Taylor could hit it a little better."

Marshall escaped additional damage, and was the winning pitcher when Stubbs led off the bottom of the eighth inning with his eighth home run.

All that was left was the top of the ninth, when Chapman walked Ramirez with one out but struck out the side, snapping his streak of blown saves at two. As fireworks began to boom overhead, Chapman did a pair of somersaults toward catcher Ryan Hanigan.

"I didn't see that. He did a somersault after?" Green said. "Yeah, that's ... I've never seen that, really. That's tough."

The Brewers similarly irked opponents in recent seasons with their own post-win celebrations. Reds manager Dusty Baker said he missed it, too.

"I talked to Bronson on the way in and he said, 'You didn't see that?'" Baker said. "I turned to the guys and said, 'Way to go.' The next thing I looked on the board and saw him rolling around. That's something Bryan [Price, Cincinnati's pitching coach] has addressed. I know [Chapman] was happy, especially after the bad week he had last week, but that's something -- we don't play like that."

The Brewers have Zack Greinke on the mound for Wednesday's afternoon finale, trying to avoid a sweep.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.