Brewers nearly catch up to Hamels, Philly

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Mike Fiers struggled on the mound for the second time this week, unable to get strikes with his curve ball.

Fiers (6-6) gave up four runs and five hits in five innings, allowing back-to-back home runs in the second as the Milwaukee Brewers lost 4-3 to the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night. He struck out five, walked four and hit a batter.

“I don’t think they had the curve ball in the back of their minds. I think they were canceling it out since I wasn’t throwing it for strikes,” Fiers said. “So they were really just sitting on the fastball.”

Fiers was coming off his worst start of the season on Monday at Colorado when he lasted just two innings, giving up nine hits and eight earned runs. Before that, he had a 1.03 ERA in nine starts.

“You’ve got good hitters and when you’re not on your game all the time, these guys, they don’t miss too many mistakes, especially when you’re not throwing your offspeed pitches over the plate,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “They can then just sit on a fastball and they wait for you to make a mistake with your fastball and they usually don’t miss it.”

The Brewers entered Saturday night’s game having won eight straight at Miller Park. A win would have tied a franchise record for consecutive victories at the ballpark set in May 2011.

Phillies starter Cole Hamels (14-6) gave up eight hits and three earned runs in 7 2-3 innings and tied a season high with 10 strikeouts. He walked just one batter, but gave up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun with two outs in the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon came on and struck out Aramis Ramirez, then pitched a scoreless ninth to record his 27th save.

“(Hamels) pitched really good. He used all his pitches and had good command,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Hamels entered the game having thrown 22 consecutive scoreless innings over his previous three starts. The stretch included consecutive nine-inning shutouts, against Atlanta on Aug. 7 and Miami on Monday.

“I was able to keep the ball down and get big outs with my changeup and keep them off balance,” Hamels said.

After retiring the Brewers in order in the first inning, the left-hander, who was the MVP of the 2008 World Series, yielded a home run to Ramirez to lead off the bottom of the second inning.

“It was just a bad pitch. I threw a really good one before and I tried to throw it again,” Hamels said. “I just left it up. He definitely got me. At the same time, you just go and battle. I don’t like to give up the runs, especially the homers. In this ball park, if I just stay down and make pitch after pitch, obviously I’ll be able to get out of jams and succeed.”

The Brewers had a golden opportunity to cut into a 4-1 Phillies lead in the bottom of the third inning when Jonathan Lucroy singled with two outs. Braun followed with a shot to the base of the left field wall, but Lucroy inexplicably stopped at second, and Braun was tagged out in a rundown.

“I looked up to see where the ball was — which I shouldn’t have done with two outs — but I looked up to see where the ball was and I just missed the bag,” Lucroy said. “I could have kept running but then they could have appealed it. Hindsight, I probably should have kept running because I asked Jimmy (Rollins) and Chase (Utley) if they saw it and they both said no. “

Hamels said he thought Lucroy had started jogging because he assumed Braun’s shot would clear the outfield fence.

“I thought it was out,” Hamels said. “You can’t assume anything and you just have to keep going. I got lucky on that one.”

The home run by Braun in the eighth came after Hamels allowed a single to Lucroy.

“It’s going to be a battle with Braun. He’s that good,” Hamels said. “There’s a constant battle when you have to face the best hitters. That’s why I really wanted to get Lucroy out. I think I was more frustrated about that.”

The Phillies got on the scoreboard first when John Mayberry Jr. hit a two-run homer over the left-field wall with no outs in the top of the second. Mayberry’s home run came after Laynce Nix drew a walk to open the inning. Catcher Erik Kratz followed with solo shot to the second level in left field, making it 3-0.

“I love it when we manufacturer runs and play small ball, but home runs get you something quick,” Manuel said. “I’m happy to get (runs) on the board real quick and that’s the best way I know how to get them.”

The Phillies added another run in the third when Ryan Howard hit a double, driving in Utley, who led off with a single.

NOTES: Brewers pitchers had 1,002 strikeouts entering Saturday’s game, which led the big leagues. The Brewers have never finished a season leading the league in strikeouts. … Brewers pitcher Mark Rogers struck out pinch hitting for Fiers in the fifth inning. Rogers had two hits, including a double, in seven at bats entering the game. … Braun stole second in the sixth inning, giving him 20 stolen bases and 20 home runs in the same season for the third time in his career.