MILWAUKEE — Sitting near the dugout railing after a strong outing, Matt Garza could only watch helplessly as his shutout evaporated.
A seven-run outburst in the eighth inning by the Philadelphia Phillies led to a 9-1 loss for the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. It was hard to believe that Garza had a no-hitter going into the seventh.
Instead, the Brewers got swept in four games by the last-place team in the NL East. Milwaukee has lost five straight and nine of 10 heading into an important series this weekend with the St. Louis Cardinals.
With the offense dormant and the bullpen struggling, manager Ron Roenicke is looking for answers.
"The longer it keeps going, the worse things go for us, it gets a little tougher," he said. "We'll come back tomorrow, talk about some things and see if we can get this turned around."
By Thursday night, the Brewers had already made one change after announcing that top pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson would be recalled from Triple-A Nashville to start Saturday's game against the Cardinals. Nelson, who is 10-2 with a 1.46 ERA in the minors, would take the rotation spot of Marco Estrada, who was bumped to the bullpen after allowing a league-leading 27 homers in 18 starts.
Garza has been much better. Yet the Brewers couldn't capitalize Thursday with their bats in a slumber.
Jimmy Rollins broke up Garza's no-hit bid with a single in the seventh before sparking a seven-run outburst an inning later with a two-out, two-run single off once-lights out reliever Will Smith.
Garza (6-6) had just been pulled from the game to a standing ovation but instead got tagged with a tough-luck loss.
"It happens, man. My job is to not get guys on base. You leave two guys on, especially two guys with speed, and you pay for it," Garza said. "But it is what it is. You turn the page. We can't dwell on it too long."
The Phillies sent 12 batters to the plate in the eighth and got RBI ground-rule doubles from Ryan Howard and Cody Asche. Rookie David Buchanan (5-5) struck out five in seven innings for the win.
Carlos Gomez scored the Brewers' only run with a solo shot to left-center to lead off the sixth for his 14th homer and a 1-0 lead with Garza' no-hit bid still intact.
It ended quickly after Rollins led off the seventh with a hard chopper past diving first baseman Mark Reynolds for a single into right.
What followed was a swift and startling change of fortunes for a team clinging to the NL Central lead. After climbing to a season-high 19 games over .500 on June 28, the Brewers have watched their 6 1-2-game lead whittle away with second-place St. Louis due in town.
Perhaps more disappointing for the Brewers is that they were swept at home by the last-place team in the NL East that had been swept in its previous series in Pittsburgh.
"I look at the final score and that's ridiculous. We're way too good of a team, we have way too good of a bullpen to let a game get away like that," Roenicke said.
It was another tough outing for Smith, the hard-throwing left-hander who was off to such a good start this season there was talk that he should make the All-Star team as a setup man.
No longer. Smith failed to record an out in the eighth and was charged with five runs, three hits and two walks. His ERA ballooned from 2.16 to 3.24.
Roenicke said he's looking for Smith keep his stuff lower in the zone.
"Every pitcher goes through it when you struggle. I'm just in the middle of it right now, so you just kind of grind away and keep it going," Smith said.
Asche and Dominic Brown had two RBIs each in the eighth. Things were going so well for Philadelphia that pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez got to come up to the plate twice in the inning.
"Baseball is a funny game. (Garza) goes from a no-hitter to getting a loss and we get no-hit and then win it," Rollins said.
The Phillies' eighth finally ended after Hernandez's infield single was overturned to an out following a Brewers replay challenge.
NOTES: The Phillies swept Milwaukee in four games on the road for the first time. ... Brewers OF Ryan Braun returned to the lineup after missing a few games with a sore back. He hit fifth for the first time since 2008. ... RHP Yovani Gallardo (5-5) opens the St. Louis series on Friday, while Philadelphia returns home to open a weekend series with Washington by sending RHP A.J. Burnett (5-8) to the mound.
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