Reds, Milton fall short in pitchers' duel

Reds, Milton fall short in pitchers' duel

CINCINNATI -- If there were any remaining questions about pitcher Eric Milton's knee, he answered them on Friday night. Too bad the Reds lineup had no answers for Brandon Webb.

Milton allowed one run on three hits and struck out a season-high nine, but saw his best outing of the season rendered moot by Webb's seven-hit shutout and a 3-0 loss to the Diamondbacks before 33,751 at Great American Ball Park.

"I felt good, but Webb was just a little bit better tonight," said Milton (2-2). "My velocity was up a bit, I was able to keep the ball down and throw strikes."

In his second start since returning last Saturday from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Milton threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of his 29 batters and exhibited outstanding control. He did not issue any walks.

"He looked confident, he was aggressive, [and] his location was pretty good," Reds catcher Javier Valentin said. "He was outstanding. He gave us an opportunity to win."

"It was nice to see Miltie come back and pitch extremely well," said Reds manager Jerry Narron. "He could have very easily left with a 0-0 score."

The Diamondbacks had runners on the corners with one out in the second inning when catcher Johnny Estrada rolled a dribbler to the left side. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion charged the ball but bobbled it while trying to throw Luis Gonzalez out at home. Encarnacion was charged with an error on the play as Gonzalez made it a 1-0 game.

"It's tough, but I can make that play," said Encarnacion. "I tried to do my best, but things didn't happen good for me today on that play."

That run would be all Webb (8-0) would need as he stifled the Reds for the second time this season. The Diamondbacks right-hander struck out five and kept his record perfect for the season. He leads the National League with a 2.18 ERA this season.

Webb allowed just one run in 17 innings against Cincinnati this season. Nearly half of the Reds' seven hits on the night came from left fielder Adam Dunn, who went 3-for-4.

The Reds did not help Milton as they squandered scoring chances with less than two outs in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings.

In the fifth, Austin Kearns singled and advanced to second on an error by third baseman Chad Tracy. Later in the inning, Encarnacion reached on a fielder's choice as shortstop Craig Counsell threw out Kearns at the plate.

Dunn led off with a double in the seventh, but he was left stranded at third when Kearns struck out and Valentin grounded out. Encarnacion hit a leadoff double in the eighth, but could not get beyond third base.

Throughout the game, Webb kept the ball down and induced groundballs that kept the Reds off the scoreboard. He notched a total of 18 outs on the ground.

"We had some chances," said Narron. "Brandon Webb did a great job. He's one of the better pitchers in the league."

The Diamondbacks scored a pair of two-out insurance runs in the ninth, a rarity this season against Todd Coffey. After Conor Jackson walked, Shawn Green hit a 438-foot, two-run homer to right field.

It was an unfortunate outcome for Milton, who deserved better. The left-hander had two quality starts for victories in April before his knee setback. He returned with a little rust during a five-run, five-inning outing at Detroit on Saturday.

There was no sign of that rust on Friday.

"We couldn't ask any more of [Milton]," said Narron. "We just know he's capable of giving us a quality start every time out and [we're] looking forward to seeing him pitch again in five days."

William S. Hupp is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.