For the second straight night, a Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher turned in a stellar effort. For the second straight night, the Milwaukee Brewers offense performed like its bats got left behind at Miller Park.
On Tuesday, the Brewers were held to one run and three hits for the second straight night—this time by right-hander Alex Cobb and reliever Grant Balfour—as the Tampa Bay Rays won for the 11th time in its last 12 games, 5-1.
Matt Garza’s terrific start was wasted. The right-hander was facing the Rays for just the second time in his career after pitching for Tampa Bay from 2008-10 and allowed just a run on five hits in seven strong innings, walking two and striking out two.
He left with the game tied 1-1, but it didn’t stay that way long.
Left-hander Will Smith (1-3)—so good in the early going for the Crew—was awful on Tuesday, walking three and allowing two hits while getting just one man out. He was charged with all four of the Rays’ runs in the decisive eighth inning.
Marco Estrada came on and surrendered an infield single before getting the final two outs.
The bats for Milwaukee (59-49), meanwhile, continued to sputter. The Brewers managed three hits and combined to strike out 14 times—12 in Cobb’s eight innings and twice more in the ninth against Balfour.
In two games at Tropicana Field, the Brewers are a combined 6-for-56 (.107) with 24 strikeouts and during their most recent five-game stretch, during which they are 1-4, the Brewers are hitting just .157 and have struck out 50 times while scoring nine runs.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates were both playing late games on the West Coast, but the Cardinals could pull to within a half-game of the National League Central lead with a win at San Diego and Pittsburgh could get to within a game by getting a second straight victory at San Francisco.
The game was scoreless until the fifth, when the Brewers manufactured a run.
Aramis Ramirez led off with a single to right and Khris Davis drew a walk. Mark Reynolds—with four home runs in his last six games—laid down a sacrifice bunt to get the runners into scoring position and Scooter Gennett brought in Ramirez with a fly ball to center field.
Tampa Bay (53-54) drew even in the bottom of the sixth when Ben Zobrist hammered a fastball from Garza into the right field seats for his ninth home run of the season.
Things blew up rapidly after Smith entered the game in the eighth.
Rodriguez moved to third on a wild pitch and Zobrist lined a 3-2 slider that caught way too much of the plate to the left field wall for an RBI double and a 2-1 Rays lead.
The move backfired when Smith walked Loney to load the bases.
Estrada came on and induced Brandon Guyer to hit a slow roller toward first base. Reynolds tried to get the force at the plate, but the throw was too late and Forsythe scored to make it a 4-1 game.
Things got strange from there.
Yunel Escobar saw a called strike to start his at-bat against Estrada and began barking at home plate umpire Bill Welke, who eventually ejected Escobar.
Pinch-hitter Cole Figueroa lofted a fly ball to left field and Davis’ throw home was cut off by Ramirez, who tagged out Loney, but not before Longoria touched the plate for Tampa Bay’s fifth run.
Jonathan Lucroy and Gennett had the Brewers’ only other hits against Cobb. All-Star Carlos Gomez, used as the designated hitter with Logan Schafer in center field, had a night to forget, as did Schafer. The pair combined to go 0-for-7 with seven strikeouts.