D-backs downed by Brewers in first-half finale

PHOENIX (AP) — Ian Kennedy has struggled with his put-away pitches throughout the first half of the season. His final start before the All-Star break was no different, leaving the right-hander searching for answers.

Kennedy gave up a string of two-strike hits to open the game and never fully recovered, sending the Diamondbacks into the break with a 5-1 loss to the Brewers on Sunday.

“A lot of crazy things going on,” said Kennedy, who failed to reach 50 career wins for the seventh straight start.

“I am not pitching to my abilities every once in a while, not throwing well. Very inconsistent would probably be the word.”

The Brewers spent the first half of the season struggling with injuries and consistency. Against the D-backs, they had trouble holding leads in three frustrating games in the desert.

Milwaukee prevented the sweep by roughing up Kennedy (3-6) with its string of two-strike hits and a second straight strong outing by Wily Peralta (7-9).

The hitting came early, with the Brewers scoring four runs the first two innings against Kennedy. Carlos Gomez hit a two-run single in the first inning, and Logan Schafer drove in another run in the second with a sacrifice bunt before connecting for a solo homer in the fifth.

Peralta, coming off his first complete-game shutout, effectively worked around base runners all day, and the bullpen held after he left, helping the Brewers end a six-game losing streak to the Diamondbacks.

It was a nice finish to the first half for Milwaukee with a much-needed break coming up.

“It’s great to close out the first half like this, and hopefully we can keep it going after the break,” Schafer said. “We’ve had some guys banged up, and these four days should be good for us to get ourselves back healthy.”

Swept by the Dodgers earlier in the week, the D-backs responded with three impressive victories over the Brewers.

With a chance for its first sweep of Milwaukee, though, Arizona fell flat, unable to bounce back after Kennedy’s shaky outing.

Miguel Montero homered for the second straight game, but the Diamondbacks went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, failing to capitalize after getting the leadoff man on six times.

A dud of a finish, yes, but the Diamondbacks still head into the break leading the NL West, 2 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers at 50-45.

“We are in first place,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “We had a lot of trial and tribulations, but the team has hung in there well. We have stuck together well.”

Kennedy’s inability to get hitters out when ahead in the count has been a big reason he’s labored through the first half of the season. He again had trouble putting hitters away against the Brewers, allowing four straight singles to open the game — all after getting ahead 0-2 or 1-2.

The fourth one was by Gomez, who lined an 0-2 pitch through the right side for a two-run single. Another run came in on a groundout by Martin Maldonado.

Schafer drove in a run with a sacrifice bunt in the second inning and, after falling behind 0-2, led off the fifth inning with a homer that put the Brewers up 5-0.

Kennedy allowed five runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings, the second straight start he’s allowed five earned runs. He hasn’t won since June 1 against the Cubs.

“He is busting his tail. I know that and he is frustrated with his performance as anyone would be,” Gibson said. “He is healthy and he could throw the ball better. He knows it and I know it, and we will work on it.”

NOTES: Diamondbacks 2B Aaron Hill ended an 0-for-16 slumps with a single in the fourth inning. … LHP Eury De La Rose became one of four relievers in Arizona history to toss at least two scoreless innings in his MLB debut, joining Greg Aquino (2004), Max Scherzer (2008) and Josh Collmenter (2011). … D-backs third baseman Martin Prado made a pair of diving stops — one in each direction — to take away hits from Maldonado in the first inning and Jeff Bianchi in the sixth. … Arizona opens the second half of the season in San Francisco on Friday.