Brewers beat Reds, slumping Harang 5-1
He's never been sharper.
Craig Counsell's solo homer started a four-run rally against Aaron Harang on Saturday night, and the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen emerged from its struggles behind Coffey's show of endurance, protecting a 5-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
Counsell led off the fourth inning with a homer, the first hit off Harang (5-10). The right-hander had a fielding error that prolonged the four-run inning and extended one of the worst stretches of his career.
Harang hasn't won since May 25, going 0-6 in his last 10 starts. The six consecutive losses match his career high.
Left-hander Manny Parra (4-8) repeatedly pitched out of scoring threats during his six innings, needing 125 pitches to get that far.
The Brewers lost eight of 11 heading into the All-Star break, a slide that dropped them behind St. Louis in the NL Central. The bullpen's struggles contributed to the decline and prompted manager Ken Macha to change set-up roles. The bullpen has helped Milwaukee win two of three in Cincinnati.
Coffey pitched a perfect seventh inning, then returned after a 1-hour, 59-minute rain delay to pitch a perfect eighth as well, throwing 96 mph fastballs.
"I think it was impressive that Todd went out there after that big delay," Parra said. "To keep that focus for two hours like that and come out and do just as well as he did the first inning, that really helped us. That was a big boost for the bullpen."
Coffey kept heat packs on his right shoulder and occasionally made throwing motions with a ball in his hand, trying to stay loose. He also kept moving around so he wouldn't get bored and lose his edge.
"I don't think I've ever done that," Coffey said. "I told Macha, 'I've been throwing in the (batting) cage here, staying warm, keeping heat packs on.' I told him I'll go down to the bullpen and play catch and if I feel good, I'll go."
He felt good and pitched great, getting a strikeout and a pair of groundouts. Mark DiFelice gave up a single in the ninth before finishing the combined six-hitter.
The Brewers were missing All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun, who has a sore right thumb. Braun's hands were hit by a pitch from Bronson Arroyo on Friday night. X-rays on Saturday found no fracture, and Braun isn't expected to miss a lot of games.
Counsell, the Brewers' leadoff hitter, got the offense going with his third homer of the season, a drive to right field that landed in the first row of seats. It was his first homer since June 21.
Milwaukee sent nine batters to the plate in the inning. Prince Fielder's comeback ground deflected off Harang's glove for an error that let in a run. Corey Hart had an RBI double, and Frank Catalanotto — Braun's replacement — had a sacrifice fly.
"I just ran into some tough luck there in the fourth," said Harang, who gave up seven hits in seven innings and struck out seven. "Eventually, I was able to buckle down and get back on a roll, but that inning ended up hurting us."
J.J. Hardy homered off Nick Masset after the rain delay.
Parra ended Edwin Encarnacion's tear. The third baseman was 7 for 7 in the first two games with a walk, reaching base safely in all eight plate appearances. He took a called third strike in the first inning, ending a two-on threat. Encarnacion went 0 for 3 with a walk.