The nine cases of champagne chilling in the visitors' clubhouse at County Stadium are still ice-cold.
The Cincinnati Reds came to Milwaukee with confidence, solid pitching and control of their postseason destiny. But in less than 24 hours, the Reds' pitching staff collapsed twice and their playoff hopes took two big blows from the Milwaukee Brewers, a team playing only for pride.
The Brewers scored seven runs in the third inning and beat the Reds 10-6 Saturday, imperiling Cincinnati's hopes of holding off Houston and New York for the final two NL playoff spots.
"We just didn't do anything," Reds manager Jack McKeon said. "Our pitching didn't hold up, and we didn't get enough big hits. It's not like us to play this way."
The loss dropped Cincinnati (95-66) a half-game behind Houston (95-65) in the NL Central race.
The Astros played host to Los Angeles later in the day, while the New York Mets, who trailed both teams by one game for the wild card, were home for Pittsburgh in a night game.
One day after the Reds' pitching staff blew a three-run lead in the late innings of Milwaukee's 4-3 win, Cincinnati's Juan Guzman had his worst start in more than two years. The Reds had won six straight games before losing at Houston on Wednesday, but Saturday's loss was their third in a row.
The Reds haven't lost four straight games all season, but then again, they haven't played under this much pressure in years. The regular season concludes on Sunday, and even a win won't guarantee the Reds a postseason berth.
"Our guys are going to have to be hungry for tomorrow," Greg Vaughn said. "I mean, this is it. Ever single guy in here has to play like it's our last game ever."
Guzman, acquired from Baltimore for the stretch run, was shelled for five runs in the third, and he made a critical error that allowed Milwaukee's inning to stay alive.
Cincinnati's bullpen, which has carried the Reds this far with usually excellent work, again struggled on a chilly fall afternoon. Dennys Reyes relieved Guzman but couldn't retire a batter, and Stan Belinda allowed two more runs in the fourth inning.
Though their season essentially has been a disaster on and off the field, the Brewers are taking their spoiler role very seriously. They're playing their best baseball of the season while making matters miserable for both Houston and Cincinnati.
Milwaukee has won 13 of its last 19. The Brewers took two of three games from the Astros last week before beating Cincinnati twice.
"It's a great storyline for us," said Jeff Cirillo, who went 3-for-5 and drove in two runs. "Now it'll come down to the last game. It's exciting, especially when you're playing like we are now."
Cincinnati led 1-0 entering the third, but Guzman (6-3) allowed singles to Kevin Barker and Brian Banks. Pitcher Kyle Peterson bunted and reached base when Guzman couldn't field the ball, and Marquis Grissom hit a two-run single.
After Mark Loretta sacrificed, Cirillo hit another two-run single. Guzman was yanked, but Reyes allowed singles to Jeromy Burnitz and Geoff Jenkins. Rookie Ron Belliard, who hit the game-winning single in Milwaukee's win on Friday, then doubled.
It was the normally reliable Guzman's shortest start since May 13, 1997, when he was pitching for Toronto. He threw just 40 pitches.
"I feel so disappointed, because I just couldn't get even a little bit lucky," Guzman said. "I needed to pitch a good game today. I'm so disappointed."
Jenkins and Belliard also had RBI doubles in the fourth against Belinda.
Peterson (4-7) got the win but wasn't sharp. Dmitri Young hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning that cut Milwaukee's lead to 7-4, but Peterson retired the next six hitters before tiring in the sixth.
Eddie Taubensee drove in runs for the Reds with a single in the sixth ana double in the eighth. Cincinnati hit three doubles in the eighth and had runners on second and third with one out and the score 9-6, but Pokey Reese popped up and Mark Sweeney grounded out.
Burnitz drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth to score Milwaukee's final run.
The Reds got a scare in the third inning when Peterson hit Reese on the wrist. Reese dropped to the ground, but he eventually went to first base and stole second.
Reese then scored the game's first run on Mike Cameron's single. Cameron left the game in the fourth inning with a strained left hamstring.
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