Brewers crush Reds to move within 1 games of wild card

CINCINNATI -- The clubhouse sound system pulsated with music. Smiling Milwaukee Brewers players huddled around big-screen television sets, choosing sides and cheering the outcome of plays in NFL games.

So, this is what it's like to win a game.

Prince Fielder homered and drove in three runs Sunday, helping the Brewers end one of the most bizarre weeks in their history with an 8-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that provided one day's solace for a fading team.

The Brewers won for only the fifth time in 20 games, a September self-destruct that has made them a long shot for the playoffs. They're 1 games behind the Mets -- two in the loss column -- for the NL wild card, a big gap with only one week to go.

"We're not eliminated, so it has to be good," Fielder said. "This is baseball. You never know what could happen. The [teams] in front of us could do what we did -- play good baseball and kaplowie. As long as we just play our game and see what happens, we'll be all right. At least we'll be able to sleep at night."

For the most part, they've been sleepless in September.

Fielder has been Milwaukee's only consistent threat at the plate in the last two weeks, but played a starring role in their most recent meltdown. He had a fielding error that set up Cincinnati's comeback on Saturday, and struck out with the bases loaded to end a demoralizing 4-3 loss.

He got the Brewers going on Sunday with a solo homer in the second inning off Bronson Arroyo (15-11), who had won his last five decisions. It was Fielder's fifth homer during a 12-game hitting streak.

Fielder also had a two-run double in the fourth as the Brewers pulled away to their most lopsided victory in September.

"Once we got behind, we couldn't dig ourselves out of it," Arroyo said.

A former Reds pitcher had a lot to do with it.

Reliever Todd Coffey (1-0) escaped a bases-loaded threat in the fourth by getting a pair of strikeouts, then had a look-at-me-now moment as he walked off the field. Coffey stared toward the booths behind home plate so intently and so long that he went off course and had to backtrack to reach the dugout steps.

Coffey was booed by fans and harshly criticized by a broadcaster when he pitched for the Reds, who let him go earlier this month.

"I spent 10 years here with this organization," Coffey said. "I wanted to keep my head up and let them know that hey, you don't want me anymore, you made your decision, I understand it. But I'm going to plug along. I come back in here, I'm going to have a motive to pitch even better."

The Brewers went 2-8 on their final road trip and headed home. After a day off Monday, they'll play three against Pittsburgh and three against the Chicago Cubs, who have clinched the NL Central title. The Brewers are 44-31 at home, with no margin for error.

"It's the biggest homestand that any of us has gone through, obviously," interim manager Dale Sveum said. "As well as we used to play at home, it's time to have one of those series where we win all of them. There's no doubt about it."

If they don't make the playoffs, they'll remember this week as the one that did them in.

Milwaukee started September with a 5-game lead in the wild-card race, then collapsed. The Brewers fired manager Ned Yost on Monday, an unprecedented move to try to relax the team and stop the self-destruction. It only got worse.

Right-hander Ben Sheets had to leave a game after two innings because of a sore elbow, leaving his status uncertain for as long as the season lasts. Sveum had to repeatedly juggle the lineup and the rotation because of injuries.

The toughest blow came on Thursday, when the Brewers took a 6-2 lead into the ninth at Wrigley Field and got two outs before closer Salomon Torress let it slip away. A day later, the Reds hit seven homers off a dispirited pitching staff, leaving the Brewers in deep trouble.

Game notes
The Brewers finished 41-40 on the road. ... 3B Craig Counsell snapped an 0-for-14 streak. He went 4-for-24 on the road trip. ... The Reds designated Coffey for assignment on Sept. 9, and the Brewers claimed him off waivers a day later. ... RH Seth McClung made his first start since July 21 and lasted only 3 1/3 innings. He gave up two hits, walked four and hit two Reds. ... The Reds finish their home schedule Monday with a makeup game against Florida. ... OF Jay Bruce, who was hit on the right hand by a pitch on Saturday, was out of the lineup.