BOSTON – As well as they’ve been playing since the all-star break, the Milwaukee Brewers were due for a letdown at some point.
That day, as it turns out, was Sunday.
Many of their typical warts were on display in what turned out being a 7-2 setback against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park – namely, a lack of timely hitting and some poor defense at the worst possible time with a bit of shaky relief mixed in as well.
The Brewers actually held a two-run lead early before a barrage of doubles by the Red Sox – including four straight in the fifth inning – quickly turned the game around.
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The loss, just the team’s second in its last nine, snapped Milwaukee’s five-game winning streak in Boston that dated to 2011. It also denied the Brewers a chance to match their high-water mark for the season at 14 games over .500.
Aaron Ashby, making his second start since signing his contract extension, got himself into and out of trouble quickly in the first inning by erasing a leadoff single and then walk with a flyout and a 3-6-3 double play.
He was staked to a 2-0 lead in the second when Kolten Wong banged a double to left-center and the red-hot Hunter Renfroe followed with a missile of a homer over the Green Monster in left – his sixth homer in nine games.
His current binge has left him one away from tying Willy Adames and Rowdy Tellez for the team lead.
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Ashby struck out the side in the third but the offense failed to build on its lead in the fourth when, with the bases loaded and one out, Omar Narváez grounded into a killer of a 3-6-3 double play on the first pitch he saw from Josh Winckowski.
A couple plays involving Adames loomed large in the fifth.
He doubled with two outs only to be picked off second in the top of the frame with Tellez on first and Andrew McCutchen at the plate, then Wong was unable to glove his low, hard throw to second as he tried for a forceout.
Wong was ultimately charged with an error.
Ashby (2-9) went on to retire the next two batters and got two strikes on Xander Bogaerts before Bogaerts ripped a double to left to tie the game at 2-2.
J.D. Martinez followed with a double to right, and Christian Vázquez made it three straight by inside-outing one down the first-base line.
That sequence ended Ashby’s day at 91 pitches. He allowed five hits and three walks but all five runs against him were unearned, and he also struck out six.
The five unearned runs were the most allowed by the Brewers since last Sept. 22 against St. Louis.
Hoby Milner took over and was greeted by – what else? – a Alex Verdugo double. That gave Boston a 5-2 lead. Two more doubles off Milner in the sixth left the Red Sox with seven straight two-baggers for hits as the deficit grew to 7-2.
The seven doubles were the most against Milwaukee since April 11, 2016 at St. Louis (eight).
Renfroe finished with four hits, a personal high with the Brewers.
The game opened on a down note, with many Boston fans learning of the death of former Celtics great Bill Russell from the Fenway Park video board.
The news was met with an audible gasp, then Russell was remembered with a moment of silence and a robust round of applause.