A ninth-inning rally off an All-Star closer fell apart in the bottom of the ninth for the Reds, and the bullpen cost the team another victory in an 8-7 loss to the Brewers on Monday at Miller Park
Closer Todd Coffey couldn't hold down the lead for the Reds, who had stormed back with three runs in the top of the ninth to take a 7-6 lead.
"I went in there with a job to do and to shut them down and get the win for us," Coffey said. "I dropped the ball today."
After Coffey allowed a leadoff single to Rickie Weeks, the game was inches away from ending on the second batter. Brewers shortstop Bill Hall -- a lifetime .291 hitter with six home runs against the Reds -- hit a single off the top of the wall in right.
"That ball did everything but go out," said Reds manager Jerry Narron.
Hall had already homered in the third. Cincinnati's pitchers struggled throughout the game against Hall, who finished 4-for-5.
"He's a good hitter," said starter Aaron Harang. "When he gets locked in it's tough to get him out."
After Hall's single moved Weeks to third, Geoff Jenkins then tied the game with an RBI bloop single to left that speedy outfielder Ryan Freel couldn't get to in time.
"That ball couldn't have been thrown out there in a better spot," Narron said. "If Freel can't catch it nobody can."
After Jenkins tied the game, Lee singled up the middle to score Hall and end the game.
"[The pitch to] Lee was down and away and he just puts in it there," Coffey said. "That's just the way things are going right now. They were infield dribblers, and they were right where they had to be."
Coffey and Narron said the hits by Jenkins and Lee weren't a matter of not executing a pitch, but good pitches that the two Brewers simply got a hold of.
Regardless, the bullpen's struggles are nothing new. The bullpen ranks last in the National League with a 5.32 ERA. It has also been unable to convert 12 save opportunities. Despite this, the Reds are still fighting for first place, and no one on the team is pointing the finger on the bullpen.
"They're just going through a little rut, hitters do that too," Ken Griffey Jr. said. "It's really noticeable when the bullpen does it. But they feel bad. They come in and apologize. But we're in this together."
Griffey delivered what could have been the decisive blow off Brewers All-Star closer Derrick Turnbow in the top of the ninth inning. His two-run double gave the Reds a short-lived one-run lead before Coffey entered the game.
After two walks, Adam Dunn cut the Brewers' lead to 1 with an RBI single. Freel pinch-ran for Dunn and scored on Griffey's double. As it turns out, the rally provided Milwaukee a chance for a dramatic win.
The Reds appeared to be on the verge of busting the game open after loading the bases and chasing Turnbow from the game. But Austin Kearns flied out to right to end the threat.
"We battled back and put ourselves in a position to win," Narron said. "We'll continue to battle. We had some good at-bats there."
The rally overshadowed Cincinnati's poor seventh inning. Kent Mercker replaced starter Harang with no outs and men on second and third. Felipe Lopez's throwing error allowed Hall to score from second. Weeks had also scored from third, and Milwaukee had the lead. Then, with the infield in, Lee scooted a single past Lopez to score Jenkins, who had stolen third two pitches before Lee's single.
"We needed to help ourselves out defensively," Narron said. "We needed to make routine outs."
Harang was unsuccessful in his first attempt to become the first Reds pitcher to earn 10 victories by the All-Star break since Jimmy Haynes did it in 2002. Harang pitched six-plus innings, allowed five earned runs on 10 hits, struck out three and walked two. Harang, who said he knew early in the game he didn't have his best stuff, allowed the most earned runs he's allowed since April 19 against Florida.
"Even from early on in the game I got a couple of breaks," Harang said. "They didn't really miss anything that I was throwing."
That statement applied especially for Hall, who now has four of his 17 home runs against the Reds this season.
"There's always one guy on one team that does it to you," Griffey said. "For us, it's just him."
John Sahly is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.