MILWAUKEE (AP) — The pitches low in the strike zone from Roberto Hernandez looked so enticing to the aggressive Milwaukee Brewers that they didn’t wait long to take their cuts.
More often than not, those balls bounced harmlessly on the ground to awaiting infielders for easy outs to make for a quick and easy night for the Philadelphia Phillies right-hander.
Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley backed up Hernandez with home runs to give Philadelphia a 4-1 victory Wednesday night and a third straight win over the NL Central leaders.
“I know that (the Brewers) like to swing. The key for the game today, keep the ball down,” Hernandez said. “I control every pitch. Groundballs — that is the key to the game.”
Hernandez (4-8) needed just 84 pitches in eight innings to dispatch the Brewers, who have lost four straight and eight of nine. Hernandez allowed three hits, and Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for his 22nd save.
With still one game left to play in Milwaukee, the Phillies have locked up a series win over the Brewers — a highlight for a team stuck in last place in the NL East and engulfed in trade talk.
“Winning is the cure-all of cure-alls,” Papelbon said.
Rollins and Utley homered off Kyle Lohse (9-4), who retired 13 straight batters after Utley’s first-inning solo shot.
But Lohse gave up a leadoff single to Cameron Rupp in the sixth before Rollins hit a 2-1 hanging curve with two outs over the wall in right field for a two-run lead. The homer snapped an 0-for-20 slump for Rollins.
Lohse pitched effectively in allowing four runs and seven hits over eight innings. But the breaks aren’t going the Brewers’ way these days, and bloopers or soft hits have turned into openings for run-scoring innings for opponents.
“It just seems like a lot of breaks are going the other way, and that’s how it goes,” Lohse said. “We’ve just got to battle our way through it and try to head into the break on a little better note.”
The margin of error is smaller on the mound with the lineup inconsistent at the plate.
“We’re just in a funk right now,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “We need to get big hits like they’re getting big hits.”
One night after the teams combined for 16 runs and 23 hits in a Philadelphia victory, Hernandez and Lohse matched up in a pitchers’ duel for much of a cool but picture-perfect summer evening.
The Brewers scratched out a run in the second on Lyle Overbay’s hard single up the middle. Aramis Ramirez had a poor jump after freezing at second to make sure the ball wasn’t caught but center fielder Ben Revere’s throw home was offline to allow Ramirez to score and tie the game at 1.
Otherwise, Hernandez took advantage of the first-pitch swinging Brewers and got nine groundball outs in the first seven innings, including Jean Segura’s chopper to short with a runner on third to end the fifth. Hernandez didn’t allow a hit after the fourth.
“It looked like the ball was darting both ways,” manager Ryne Sandberg said of Hernandez’s pitches. “It looked like (the Brewers) were having a hard time gauging him.”
Lohse was even better than Hernandez for a stretch by working ahead with first-pitch strikes and finishing Phillies off with 90-mph sliders before running into trouble in the sixth.
Shortstop Rollins and second baseman Utley led the way at the plate, just like in the late 2000s. Rollins and Utley have started 1,146 games together, most among active double-play combinations in the majors.
NOTES: RHP Jeff Manship (right quad) rejoined the Phillies after being activated from the 15-day DL following Tuesday night’s 9-7 win. Manship was 1-1 with a 5.89 ERA in 16 games before going on the DL on June 1. RHP B.J. Rosenberg was demoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. … Brewers RHP Jim Henderson’s rehab assignment was moved to Double-A Huntsville. The setup man has been on the DL since May 2 with right shoulder inflammation. … RF Ryan Braun (back) was out of the starting lineup a second straight day. Roenicke said Braun was feeling better and was available off the bench Wednesday. … Philadelphia’s RHP David Buchanan (4-5) opposes Milwaukee’s Matt Garza (6-5) when the teams wrap up their four game series Thursday afternoon.
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