MILWAUKEE -- On their way to a National League Central title last season, Brewers starting pitchers avoided that one big inning that changes a game. Those blowup innings are becoming all too common for this year's club.
That was the case on Monday, as one big inning was too much for the Brewers in a 6-1 loss to the Reds in the series opener at Miller Park.
"I don't know why we're having those tough innings," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "It's hard to explain when those innings happen.
"We didn't have those blowup innings last year. This same crew, they did not have bad innings. Their bad innings maybe was two runs. But we've got to stay away from these big runs."
After retiring the first nine Reds in order, starter Marco Estrada ran into trouble. The Reds connected for five straight hits to start the fourth inning, including a pair of home runs.
It was Jay Bruce's three-run blast deep to right-center field that put things out of reach and capped the five-run frame.
"The first four innings were a blur to me," Estrada said. "I didn't feel comfortable out there. I wasn't making good pitches I didn't think. I got away with a lot of pitches.
"That fourth inning, after they scored those runs, it just woke me up. I thought I did better after that."
Estrada did not allow a run in the other six innings he pitched, and gave up just two hits outside of the fourth. He allowed eight hits in all with five strikeouts and zero walks.
The second time through the order has been an issue for Estrada through three starts this season. Opposing hitters are 2-for-27 and scoreless the first time through, compared with a 10-for-26 mark and nine runs on Estrada's second trip through the order.
For the Reds, the second time through the order was simply the fourth inning, as they sent nine batters to the plate.
"He threw a great game except for that inning," Roenicke said. "He threw the ball really well the rest of the game."
Estrada admitted that not feeling comfortable on the mound likely had at least something to do with the fact that he had not pitched in nine days.
"But it's no excuse," Estrada said. "I've still got to go out and execute every pitch."
Ryan Braun's ninth homer of the season -- a solo shot in the first -- constituted all of the Brewers' offense.
Milwaukee had chances to cut into the Reds' lead in both the fourth (runners on second and third with none out) and seventh (first and second with two outs) innings, but could not capitalize.
"It's frustrating when you got out there and you put all the work in, but sometimes you just don't feel it," said second baseman Rickie Weeks, who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, dropping his average to just .174.
"It's part of the game and I understand that you've got to keep working hard every day, and that's what I'm going to do."
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo was in control throughout his 6 2/3 innings, giving up just one run on six hits with nine strikeouts and one walk. Five of the nine strikeouts caught the Brewers looking.
Arroyo certainly did not mind catching the Brewers' offense when it was down, either.
"It was a different lineup than you expect against these guys with the guys they had hurt," Arroyo said.
"I was hoping Braun was going to sit out too. I've never been one to be sad that the perennial players in the National League sit out against me. It was nice to get in there against some of the guys that haven't been playing all year for them."
For the Brewers, on the other hand, the loss just added to the frustration that continues to build with each game.
Every injury and poor hitting or pitching performance just digs the club into a deeper hole. The Brewers fell into a tie with the Cubs for last place on Monday at 12-17, well behind the NL Central-leading Cardinals.
"I think the biggest thing is keep coming to the ballpark," Weeks said. "Baseball, I don't care what you do, you can have some big ups and big downs in this game. You've just got to keep coming to the ballpark.
"When you keep coming to the ballpark and keep putting in the work, things can only go up from there."
Jordan Schelling is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.