Brewers batters continue to struggle versus Tampa Bay

The only run the Brewers scored Tuesday was manufactured. Sluggish offense has become the theme of the week for Milwaukee.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers are in a severe offensive funk and aren’t winning because of it.

For the third straight game, Milwaukee wasted a strong performance from its starting pitcher by providing little offensive support. A four-run eighth inning was enough for the Tampa Bay Rays to send the Brewers to a 5-1 loss at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.

Just like Jimmy Nelson on Sunday and Kyle Lohse on Monday, Matt Garza pitched well enough to win. A solo home run to Ben Zobrist in the sixth was the only blemish on the right-hander’s line over seven strong innings.

"That’s the disappointing part — when you are getting the great pitching we’ve been getting and the offense cools off," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We’ll get it going, but it’s hard to lose games when your starter goes out there and gives you that kind of performance."

Milwaukee’s offense has returned to the dormant state it sat in just prior to the All-Star break. The offensive switch flipped on in a 10-game stretch in which the Brewers averaged 5.2 runs per game from the final game of the St. Louis series before the break until Saturday.

Since, the Brewers have scored a total of three runs on just 12 hits in their last three games.

A day after Jake Odorizzi helped hold Milwaukee to just three hits, Rays starter Alex Cobb allowed just three hits in eight innings.

"The last couple of days, we’re not producing like we’re supposed to," Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts Tuesday, said. "That’s going to happen sometimes. Every team is going to have, like, a couple of games where they don’t hit nothing. That happened a month ago, but we can come back. It’s part of the game.

"We (do) not feel frustrated; we have to give credit. Yesterday, that kid threw the ball really good, and Cobb today, unbelievable. He threw the fastball any time he wanted (with) nice sink, and sometimes he’d let it go and throw 94, 93, and then the nasty split or change-up. Mixed it up with a few curves. You respect a guy like that."

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The only run the Brewers scored Tuesday was manufactured. After Aramis Ramirez led off with a single and Khris Davis drew a walk, Mark Reynolds bunted on his own and ended up sacrificing the runners up to second and third. Scooter Gennett followed with a sacrifice fly to put the Brewers up 1-0 in the fifth.

Milwaukee had just two baserunners after Davis’ walk in the fifth and one of them was picked off.

"I like Reynolds being smart and wanting to get the guys over, and we get the one run," Roenicke said. "We didn’t have a whole lot of other chances besides that. We didn’t do a whole lot again. Whether it was just really good pitching or we’re not swinging well, one or the other."

The Rays tied the game on Zobrist’s solo home run off Garza with two outs in the sixth, but Milwaukee’s right-hander allowed just five hits and walked two in seven innings.

Tampa Bay blew the game open with a four-run eighth inning off left-hander Will Smith. After a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez, Desmond Jennings laid down a sacrifice bunt to give the Rays a runner in scoring position.

Smith, who entered having allowed just two extra-base hits on his slider all season, then surrendered an RBI double to Zobrist on a 3-2 slider. Logan Forsythe followed with an RBI double to put the Rays up 3-1, while an RBI infield single from Brandon Guyer and a sacrifice fly off Marco Estrada made it 5-1.

After allowing just one earned run in April and May, Smith’s ERA is up to 3.72 on the season thanks to a 14.54 ERA in 11 appearances in July.

"His location wasn’t good today," Roenicke said. "He left some pitches up, and he missed some spots by a lot, which he usually doesn’t do. He still throws some great pitches, but he’s not consistent with it.

"It was one of those outings where he missed with location. They did a good job of hitting."

Things won’t get any easier for Milwaukee’s struggling offense in the coming days, as Rays ace David Price awaits in the series finale Wednesday. After an off day Thursday, the Brewers have to face Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright on Friday.

"It’s no matter," Gomez said. "Whoever throws the ball, we’re going to swing. . . . I know (Price) is one of the best in the game and we respect that, but he throws the ball like everybody else. The ball comes to the plate, we have a bat, we’re going to swing.

"We have a really good chance to put the ball in play and make things happen. Especially now, the whole team is struggling at the plate, so make things happen."

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