Brewers beat Reds to stay alive in wild-card race
MILWAUKEE — Brett Phillips has been lighting up the Milwaukee Brewers’ clubhouse and dugout since his first appearance with the team at spring training last season.
Now, with the Brewers chasing down a playoff spot, Phillips has been lighting up the box score, too.
The rookie outfielder came up big Thursday, finishing with two hits, including the go-ahead RBI single in the sixth, as the Brewers stayed alive in their chase for the final National League wild-card spot with a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park.
“It’s exciting,” Phillips said. “This team is relentless. We keep fighting. That’s what we’ve shown these last couple of weeks, chasing the Rockies and the Cubs. These are must-win games.”
The Brewers trail the Rockies, who currently hold the second wild-card spot, by two games with three games left for each team. The Rockies were idle Thurday.
Phillips has been a spark plug for Milwaukee’s offense down the stretch, batting .307 (12-for-39) with a home run and five RBIs over his last 10 games.
“He’s earned the playing time,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s on him, and he’s earned it and that’s why he’s in there — he’s made plays. It started out defensively as much as anything, but offensively he’s certainly doing a good job as well.”
Brent Suter gave Milwaukee five effective innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk.
He retired his first nine batters in order and then erased a leadoff single in the fourth by catching Billy Hamilton trying to steal second. Patrick Kivlehan followed with a solo home run, giving the Reds a 1-0 lead.
Milwaukee tied it up in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Orlando Arcia, then moved in front in the fifth when Eric Sogard singled and scored on a Neil Walker double and an error by Hamilton.
Ryan Braun kept the inning going with a single of his own, scoring Walker and giving the Brewers a 3-1 lead before Sal Romano got Travis Shaw to ground into a double play, ending the rally.
Suter retired Hamilton to open the sixth but then allowed three straight hits, including an RBI single from Scooter Gennett, before Oliver Drake took over.
He faced just one batter as Jesse Winker tied the game with a base hit. Milwaukee turned to Jared Hughes (5-3), who loaded the bases before striking out Adam Duvall and getting Stuart Turner to bounce into a double play to end it.
“That was my best shot,” Hughes said. “Throwing a strike and getting a ball put in play. It just so happened that it worked out that way.”
Romano (5-8) got two quick outs to open the bottom of the inning but walked Arcia. That brought up Phillips, who ripped a 1-0 fastball to right, scoring Arcia and giving the Brewers the lead.
Romano struck out seven in his final start of the season and allowed four runs — three earned — and seven hits with a pair of walks over 5 2/3 innings of work.
“I thought he pitched his tail off,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “Unless his pitch count got him, I saw that as his game until they scored. He had two outs relatively quickly and then a walk before Phillips hits the gap shot that scored the go-ahead run. We weren’t able to do much (offensively) the rest of the way.
Milwaukee’s bullpen took over late as Anthony Swarzak worked two scoreless innings and Corey Knebel struck out two in the ninth to earn his 39th save — and his eighth this month.
“We’ve had a lot of adrenaline flowing these last few games, and this last month,” Knebel said. “The bullpen has been holding up and doing our job. We all feel great, and have been doing our jobs.”
Counsell said before the game that he “wasn’t a math guy,” when asked about his team’s slim chance to make the postseason but the numbers are pretty straight-forward. Milwaukee needs to win all three of its games this weekend at St. Louis while the Rockies have to lose at least two against the Los Angeles Dodgers duing their weekend series in Denver to force a one-game playoff Monday in Denver.
“We’ll see what happens,” Counsell said. “We’re trying to play a fourth game somewhere.”
NOTES: Reds CF Billy Hamilton set a career high when he recorded his 59th stolen base of the season by swiping second in the seventh inning. ... 1B Eric Thames was out of the Brewers lineup Thursday, still sore a night after fouling a pitch off his right foot. ... Milwaukee was also without C Manny Pina, who missed his sixth straight game because of a sprained ligament in his left thumb.