Cruising through the first seven outs of his start, Kyle Lohse looked like he was about to settle in for yet another strong outing.
But in a matter of two pitches, everything changed for Lohse and the Milwaukee Brewers.
With five strikeouts already while working in the third inning, Lohse allowed a one-out single to Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon. One pitch later, Billy Hamilton connected for a two-run home run on a changeup to put Cincinnati up 2-0.
The Reds built their lead to 4-0 against Lohse and held on from there, sending Milwaukee to its fourth consecutive loss with a 4-2 victory Friday in the series opener at Great American Ballpark.
"I know he’s an aggressive hitter," Lohse said of Hamilton, who has three of his five career home runs against the Brewers. "I’m trying to throw a changeup down, maybe get a ground ball or a weak fly. I just pulled it and pretty much laid it out there for him."
A couple of defensive miscues helped Cincinnati add to its lead, starting with Devin Mesoraco doubling in the fourth inning on a ball center fielder Carlos Gomez usually comes up with. The catch was certainly not easy or routine, but Gomez usually makes the play when he gets to the ball. Instead, the ball hit off his glove and fell. Skip Schumaker followed with a double of his own to put the Reds up 3-0.
"There’s not too many times Gomey misses that ball," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
In the fifth, first baseman Lyle Overbay misplayed a ball to allow Todd Frazier to reach. Frazier then scored on Joey Votto’s double into the left-field corner.
Lohse needed 103 pitches to get through five innings Friday, allowing three earned runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts. The right-hander was charged with the loss for the first time since he was tagged for eight runs in five innings in Pittsburgh on June 6.
"I’ve been battling some stuff," Lohse said. ‘Even the last start, I think it was seven (innings) and give up one (run), it’s been a battle. You’re not going to have your stuff every time. You have to figure out what’s working. I had good enough stuff today, I just didn’t execute and they didn’t miss when I didn’t execute.
"Today, I felt, was different than the other ones. I made some mistakes. The other ones — the last start, I didn’t have location of the fastball or slider and I got through with curveball and changeup. This one, I felt like I had everything, I just made a couple of really big, costly mistakes that cost us the win."
Offensively, the Brewers couldn’t muster much against Simon, who won his National League-best 11th game of the season. Milwaukee had runners in scoring position in the first three innings against Simon but failed to score.
The Brewers finally got on the board in the seventh on a Jean Segura infield single that plated Aramis Ramirez and had runners at first and second with nobody out with a chance to further cut into the 4-1 deficit. Simon responded by striking out Logan Schafer, getting Rickie Weeks to ground into a force out and inducing a weak pop out off the bat of Scooter Gennett.
Jonathan Lucroy’s ninth home run of the season cut it to 4-2 in the eighth, but the Brewers couldn’t get any closer against Cincinnati’s lights-out bullpen duo of Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman.
"I didn’t see bad at-bats today," Roenicke said. "We hit the ball well. We lined out a bunch. We squared up a lot of baseballs today and we didn’t have anything to show for it. The first three innings we squared up a lot of balls and we had nothing."
The loss not only sent Milwaukee to a four-game losing streak for just the second time this season, but the Brewers lost a game in the standings to each of the teams chasing them in the National League Central.
Milwaukee has lost six of its eight games against Cincinnati this season, including four of five at Great American Ballpark.
"I feel like we always play them well, they just seem to have our number this year as far as beating us," Lucroy said. "We have to figure out a way to come out on top. We have to find a way to get it done tomorrow. They’re in our division, we’re going to play them all the time, so we’ve got to be able to get them."
Roster move: Prior to Friday’s game, the Brewers called up outfielder Logan Schafer from Triple-A Nashville and optioned utility man Elian Herrera to the Sounds.
Left fielder Khris Davis strained his left shoulder in Toronto on Tuesday and was out of the lineup Friday for the second consecutive game. Bringing Schafer up provides the Brewers with better coverage in the outfield if Davis has to miss more time than expected.
In 37 games during his first stint with the Brewers this season, Schafer hit .190 in 78 at-bats. He hit .235 with six RBI in 18 games for Nashville before being recalled.
Schafer started in left field Friday, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
Morris injured: Brewers first-base prospect Hunter Morris is expected to miss the next six weeks with a non-displaced fracture of the right forearm after being hit by a pitch Sunday.
The 25-year-old is hitting .274 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 78 games with Triple-A Nashville this season.
To replace Morris on Nashville’s roster, the Brewers signed first baseman Matt Clark to a minor-league deal. The 27-year-old recently asked for his release from the Mets, where he was hitting .297 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI for Double-A Binghamton.
A 12th-round pick by San Diego out of LSU in 2008, Clark last played in Triple A with Tucson in 2011 and 2012. He hit .292 with 23 home runs and 83 RBI in 2011 and .290 with 22 home runs and 77 RBI in 2012 before playing in Japan in 2013.