It usually takes a complete effort to beat the Cincinnati Reds when Johnny Cueto takes the mound.
For the Milwaukee Brewers, complete efforts have been few and far between in 2015.
Cueto allowed just two runs on three hits over eight innings to beat the Brewers for the second time in less than a week, as Cincinnati hit three home runs off Kyle Lohse in a 4-2 win over Milwaukee at Great American Ballpark.
Milwaukee is the first team to start 4-17 since the 2010 Baltimore Orioles and the first National League team to lose 13 of 17 to start a season since the 1997 Chicago Cubs. The Brewers have now lost their first seven series of the season and have dropped 11 straight series dating back to last season.
"It’s tough to do," Lohse said of losing seven straight series to start 2015. "It’s tough to stomach. No one in here is giving up. It’d be one thing if we were just seeing guys going out there and not care. We care in here.
"We’ve just got to keep battling through it and try not to do too much on the mound or at the plate. It’s one of the more frustrating things I’ve ever been through. I go out there every fifth day trying to do my part and it’s frustrating as a starting pitcher because you only get that many opportunities to go out there. And when you don’t come through you’ve got to sit there and wait again until it’s your turn."
Lohse allowed a two-out solo home run to Joey Votto in the first, but the killer inning came in the fourth.
After retiring Votto and Todd Frazier to start the inning, Lohse allowed a two-out single to Jay Bruce. Brandon Phillips then connected a two-run home run, while Marlon Byrd followed with a solo shot to put Cincinnati up 4-0.
"I thought it was a real good outing except the one bad inning," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The home run Votto hit was a real good curveball. Whether he was looking for it or whatever, it was a real good curveball and Votto just looked like he was looking for it. But the other inning he just got pitches up. He left a fastball up to Phillips that he hit out center and then left a fastball to Byrd, who (hit) it out to right. That inning he got some pitches up in the zone.
"The problem is that when you face Cueto you can’t have one bad inning. That was the ballgame."
Lohse settled down to give the Brewers seven innings, but between Milwaukee’s struggling offense and Cueto on the mound, the damage was already done.
"Those are things that just frustrate you because you’re so close to having a really good outing and instead you come away with giving up four runs and losing a ballgame because of that," Lohse said. "There’s not much else to say."
After throwing 125 pitches over eight innings in a 2-1 win over Jimmy Nelson and the Brewers on April 22, Cueto needed just 85 pitches to get through eight frames Tuesday.
The only blemishes on Cueto’s line were solo home runs by Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Braun. Milwaukee had just one other baserunner — a single by Adam Lind in the seventh — against the 2014 Cy Young runner-up.
"You don’t want to get behind a guy like that," Ramirez said. "He’s got too many weapons. He’s got a good cutter, good slider, throws pretty hard. Good splitter, changeup. This guy’s got a lot of good pitches. The last thing you want to do is get behind a guy like that."
With the loss Tuesday, the Brewers joined the 1999 Florida Marlins and the 2013 Miami Marlins as the only National League teams since 1962 to lose their first seven series to start a season.
"I mean, I don’t even think about that," Ramirez said. "All I think about is winning tomorrow. We lose today, you can’t do anything about it. We’ve been struggling in every aspect of the game. We all know that. We haven’t hit the way we’d like to, we haven’t pitched the way we’d like to. We’ve got to just keep showing up and play as hard as we can."