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TB@MIL: Roenicke on Narveson's start vs. Rays

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' Interleague slate is proving just as tough as advertised.

They took another beating from one of the beasts of the American League East on a gloomy Monday night at Miller Park, this time an 8-4 loss to the Rays in front of 35,495 fans who were treated to six innings of a pitchers' duel before the game got away from the home team in the seventh. The Brewers' loss came after two similarly disheartening defeats in Boston that bookended a Randy Wolf win.

"Teams like the Rays and teams like Boston are going to be in it at the end, and those are the teams we want to beat," said Brewers starter Chris Narveson (4-5), who lost after struggling in the seventh inning. "So we've got to go out there and perform well, too."

The only sparks on Monday came from manager Ron Roenicke and hitting coach Dave Sveum, each of whom were ejected in the bottom of the sixth inning when Milwaukee was denied a baserunner by home-plate umpire Bob Davidson. More worrying than that little spat was the Brewers' big picture -- six losses in their last eight games, a puzzling stretch in which they have been outscored 55-35.

Before Jonathan Lucroy's solo home run in the seventh inning, the Brewers were in danger of being shut out at home for the first time this season.

"Why are we so inconsistent with our play? That concerns me more than anything that we do," Roenicke said before the game. "I look at a very good pitching staff, and I don't think we should be this inconsistent with what we do. It's a good offense. I realize that, because we hit homers, it's going to be a little inconsistent.

"But still, it's a roller coaster. I don't think it should be a roller-coaster ride. It's hard, because the emotions are so high and then ... as soon as we get hot, we go back down to the bottom. That's hard on a team. That's hard on a manager, too, I know that."

Roenicke was not around to see his team ride the roller coaster over the hump. He was ejected along with Sveum amid a game-changing sequence that saw the Brewers load the bases with one out in a pitchers' duel -- it had been 1-0 since the Rays scored in the top of the first inning -- but come up empty against Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann (2-4), who won his return from the disabled list.

Mark Kotsay, a last-minute addition to the lineup because left fielder Ryan Braun was ill, was called out on strikes. Yuniesky Betancourt, who received another vote of confidence from his manager before the game, worked to a 3-1 count but popped out to shallow right field.

"That was the game right there," Niemann said. "It was 1-0, and very easily things could have unraveled right there, but the defense played great behind me and we were able to make some pitches when we needed to.

"[The sixth was] huge. You're going to have some tense moments out there, and to be able to come away and get out of that without any runs, it was huge and a great start to build on."

Niemann had missed more than a month with a back injury.

"The breaking ball that he struck out Kotsay on was nasty," Roenicke said. "It's almost impossible to hit that pitch. So you got that guy at a down angle, and now you're throwing a breaking ball that's starting at that same place and going down, and it really makes it tough."

Might the pitch that Betancourt popped up been ball four?

"Looking at it, I think it was too close to take," Roenicke said. "I would hate for him to take that and then call it a strike. That's just one of those high fastballs that you've got to make a decision."

Roenicke had a good view of both decisive pitches from the clubhouse because he and Sveum were tossed before the Brewers put their first man on base in the inning. Nyjer Morgan was hit by an 0-2 pitch from Niemann, but Davidson ruled that Morgan did not make enough of an effort to avoid being struck. He ruled it ball one.

Morgan eventually struck out and Sveum aired his displeasure from the dugout. He was ejected, promoting another argument from Roenicke, who was ejected, too. It was his first as Brewers manager.

The Rays pulled away in the next half-inning. Sean Rodriguez started the inning with a leadoff walk from Narveson and, four runs, four hits and 10 batters later, Rodriguez ended the inning with a groundout.

"I felt like I was kind of sailing along, then all of a sudden a lot of emotion, a lot of stuff came up in the bottom of that [sixth] inning, and I wasn't able to carry that over to the top half," Narveson said. "The leadoff walk hurt, but it was a quality at-bat. Then you get the two outs with the guy on second and things kind of fell apart there."

Lucroy put the Brewers on the board with a homer in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Tampa Bay answered with Evan Longoria's three-run home run in the eighth for an 8-1 lead.

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