First-place Brewers keep on sliding

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MILWAUKEE (AP) - The Milwaukee Brewers have been in sole possession of first place in the NL Central since April 9, and their four-game lead is the largest in any division.

They’re just not playing like a first-place team right now.

Chase Utley hit a two-run homer, and Cole Hamels allowed one earned run in 6 2-3 innings for his first victory in a month as the Philadelphia Phillies edged Milwaukee 3-2 on Monday night, the sixth loss in seven games for the slumping Brewers.

“We’re not playing terrible,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “We’re in all these games but we’re coming up either a run or two runs short. It’s just because we’re not getting that big hit when we need to; we’re not making the big pitch.

“Things aren’t terrible. We’re not playing that bad. We’re just not doing what it takes to get that extra run or two.”

Hamels (3-5) allowed two runs and seven hits, struck out seven and walked two for his first victory since June 6 - a span of six starts.

“I had a little bit of trouble with trying to get ahead of these guys,” said Hamels, who has allowed 10 earned runs in 55 2-3 innings in his last eight starts. “I know they’re a really good hitting team. So, it’s not like I want to lay balls right down the middle.

“I know they’ve got the power numbers to hit it out of the ball park, so I kind of put myself in some tight situations with trying to be too fine with the early pitches and then having to pitch out of jams. But, got some good defense. It’s just good to have some runs.”

Ken Giles finished the seventh and worked the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 20th save in 22 chances.

Philadelphia rebounded after falling a season-high 14 games below .500 on Sunday when Pittsburgh completed a series sweep. Dating to last season, the Phillies had lost 14 consecutive games and 27 of 28 when scoring three runs or fewer.

Utley, the starting National League All-Star second baseman, staked the Phillies to a 2-0 lead in the first with his seventh homer, driving an 0-1 pitch from Marco Estrada (7-6) over the right-field wall.

“The ball Utley hit, I was trying to go up and in,” said Estrada, whose 27 homers allowed are the most in the majors. “Maybe I didn’t get it far enough in there. I honestly didn’t think he hit it that well, but he got enough of it to hit it out. That’s just the way it goes.”

The Phillies extended the lead to 3-0 in the third when Utley singled with two outs. He then scored from first on Ryan Howard’s single to right-center.

Jeff Bianchi’s pinch-single pulled the Brewers within 3-2 in the fifth. Milwaukee loaded the bases with no outs on a single by Khris Davis, Mark Reynolds reaching on an error by third baseman Cody Asche, and a single by Jean Segura. Bianchi then lined an opposite-field, two-run single just over the glove of first baseman Howard.

Right fielder Marlon Byrd helped limit the damage by throwing out Segura at third. Hamels then enticed Rickie Weeks to bounce into a force out and retired Ryan Braun on a ground out.

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