Gallardo off his game early in loss to Reds

Gallardo off his game early in loss to Reds

Gallardo off his game early in loss to Reds
CINCINNATI -- You could not help but wonder on Saturday night whether this was the dagger in the Brewers' bid to get back in the postseason hunt.

The Reds scored four times in the first inning against Yovani Gallardo, and Bronson Arroyo held the Brewers' bats at bay, sending Milwaukee to a 6-2 loss at Great American Ball Park.

The Brewers arrived in Cincinnati looking to gain ground in the National League Central, and will depart having slipped further behind. With losses to the first-place Reds in the series' first two games, the Brewers fell to a season-worst 9 1/2 games back in the division.

"Every loss from here on out, even [Friday's], it's kind of the big blow, especially to the situation we're in," Gallardo said.

He was not ready to raise the white flag.

"We just have to turn things around to stay close, and then have that good stretch and make a run for it," Gallardo said.

Even with an extra Wild Card team in each league this year, the math is making that scenario increasingly unlikely. If you use 90 wins as a safe benchmark for postseason contention, then the 44-49 Brewers will have to go 46-23 the rest of the way. To get to 85 wins, they will have to go 41-28. To finish .500, they will have to go 37-32.

Asked where the series-opening losses against the Reds left the Brewers in the big picture, manager Ron Roenicke responded, "I don't know."

"We'll see what happens," Roenicke said. "We'll come out [Sunday] and hopefully get a win and go to Philly, play well there, and go back home and see if we can get this thing together."

Gallardo was charged with four runs in 5 2/3 innings, marking the first time in 15 starts he did not make it through the sixth inning. He surrendered as many runs in the first inning -- four-- as he had in his four previous starts. He'd been at his best in July -- 2-0 with a 0.92 ERA in three starts, all Brewers wins.

But Saturday was a struggle from the start. After second baseman Rickie Weeks made a nice play to rob Drew Stubbs of a bloop hit, Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips followed with well-placed hits and Brewer-tormentor Jay Bruce gave the Reds a lead with a run-scoring single.

Scott Rolen added a sacrifice fly before Ryan Ludwick hit a 3-1 fastball for a 437-foot, two-run homer.

The Brewers were left lamenting a close call that went against them. Bruce advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado after stealing second base, and the Brewers believed they had Bruce out at third on the play.

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez had already left Great American Ball Park by the time the clubhouse opened to reporters, so he couldn't give his take on the call. But both Roenicke and Gallardo believed third-base umpire Tim Timmons missed it.

"I understand the guy was out," said Roenicke after asking someone to view the replay.

Said Gallardo: "I thought he might have been out, but obviously the umpire was closer than I was. I really didn't have a chance to look at the replay yet.

"I still have to go out and make pitches. I fell behind on Ludwick and I tried to throw a fastball in, and it came back over the plate. I think it's a huge difference -- I make a pitch there and get out of it with two runs ... we have a better chance."

The early deficit spelled trouble against Arroyo, who has started three games against Milwaukee this season -- all Reds wins.

"Even though they've beat me at times, I always feel like I'm comfortable enough to get deep in the ballgame," Arroyo said. "Tonight was no exception. I didn't feel unbelievably well, but I did some things good enough to keep the score low and give us a chance to get deep in the ballgame."

Brewers first baseman Travis Ishikawa scored twice after leading off an inning with a double. Corey Hart drove Ishikawa home with a single in the fourth inning, and Ishkawa scored again in the sixth when the Reds turned a Ramirez ground ball into a slick double play.

"We're not hitting to a lot of luck," Roenicke said.

The poster child for that was rookie shortstop Jeff Bianchi, who is 0-for-11 since a promotion after the All-Star break despite a pair of close calls on Saturday. In the fifth inning, Stubbs tracked down a Bianchi fly ball deep in outfield gap. In the seventh, Bianchi hit a line drive that struck Reds reliever Jose Arredondo and caromed to the worst possible spot -- right to the first baseman.

"That happens sometimes," Bianchi said. "You keep going about things the right way. I'm feeling pretty good, so I'm not really going to change anything. Eleven at-bats is not the end of the world."

Arroyo allowed those two runs on five hits in six innings, and would have pitched more had the Reds not opted to go for insurance runs in the sixth.

Brewers reliever John Axford escaped that rally, but the Reds instead added insurance in the seventh, when Jose Veras hung a curveball and Phillips hammered a two-run home run.

Arroyo is 13-8 in his career against the Brewers.

"I think every game coming in here was a must win," Gallardo said. "Unfortunately, we lose the first two, and [Sunday] is a lot more [important]. Everyone in this clubhouse knows that. If we go out there and play the way we've played at home, then the results should be good."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for 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.