MILWAUKEE -- This was supposed to be the long homestand that turned around the Brewers' sagging season, with three series against a pair of last-place teams, plus another that had always found a way to lose at Miller Park.
So much for that.
After a 5-2 Brewers loss on a bullpen day for the Padres, Milwaukee finds itself needing a win in Sunday's homestand finale to avoid actually losing ground. The Brewers are 4-4 so far against the Pirates, Cubs and Padres, and will send Opening Day starter Yovani Gallardo to the mound Sunday for one of the season's most significant games.
"We're a little shy this year. We're not getting the big hit when we need to," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I still think there is a really good run in this club, and we need to do that."
The Padres' bullpen was busy Saturday. With scheduled starter Eric Stults on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, hard-throwing reliever Andrew Cashner made the start and fired 100-mph fastballs for 2 1/3 innings, followed by Ross Ohlendorf (1-0) for 4 1/3 innings, then Luke Gregorson, Joe Thatcher, Dale Thayer and Huston Street (fifth save) to finish the game.
The result was a well-worn path between the visitors dugout and the pitcher's mound, plus the Padres' sixth road victory in 21 tries this season.
Of the Padres' parade of relievers, who was most impressive?
"The 100 mph is pretty impressive," Roenicke said, referring to Cashner, the former Cubs prospect. "He slide-stepped in the first inning on [Ryan Braun]. He was 1.1 [seconds] to home on a slide-step and he threw it 100 mph. That's pretty impressive."
Ohlendorf, the winning pitcher, followed, and was no soft-tosser at 91-93 mph. The four pitchers who finished the game combined to allow one hit -- a Carlos Gomez single off former Brewer Thatcher, who faced that lone batter -- in the game's final 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Brewers' offense was limited to second baseman Rickie Weeks' RBI double in the first inning off Cashner, and catcher Martin Maldonado's RBI single in the fourth off Ohlendorf.
Both hits gave the Brewers one-run leads, but neither would last.
"I think we lost a good game today," Maldonado said. "It's tough when you have a starting pitcher throwing 100. You don't see that very often."
The loss continued a roller coaster homestand for the Brewers, who dropped two of three games to the Pirates, a team that went 4-38 at Miller Park from 2007-11, then rebounded from a 10-0, series-opening loss to the Cubs to win two of three in that series. The Brewers won again on Friday, in their opener against the Padres, for the season's first three-game Miller Park winning streak.
The Padres evened things against Brewers rookie Michael Fiers (1-2), a right-hander making his third Major League start. The Padres tied the game at 2 in the fifth inning when second baseman Rickie Weeks aired a relay throw over the catcher, and went ahead in the sixth inning with four consecutive singles.
Padres catcher John Baker supplied the go-ahead hit, a two-run single up the middle that made it 4-2 in the sixth.
"There's a lot of balls on the good part of the plate when [Fiers] is trying to go to a corner," Roenicke said. "And they did a nice job of battling, too. It's not like they crushed the ball off him, but they did a nice job of battling, putting the ball in play and getting a lot of hits."
Fiers was charged with four runs on 10 hits in six innings, with a walk and six strikeouts. He has allowed 23 hits over 18 innings in his three starts, but has limited the damage with a 17-2 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
"I didn't feel my greatest, but that's a good team," Fiers said of the Padres, kind words for a club that entered the day with baseball's worst record and the second-fewest runs scored in the National League.
"They put the ball in play and found the holes, especially with runners in scoring position," Fiers said.
Fiers made exactly three turns through the Padres' lineup. They went 2-for-9 against him the first time with four strikeouts and a double-play grounder, and 3-for-8 the second time with another double play, a walk and Logan Forsythe's RBI single.
The third time, the Padres were 5-for-9 against Fiers and accounted for three runs, starting with Will Venable's RBI double and ending with Baker's go-ahead hit.
"First time, the advantage always goes to the pitcher," Padres manager Bud Black said. "And our guys, I think we had some good swings early in the game, nothing to show for it. But [Fiers] started getting the ball up a little bit. We started finding some holes, found some grass in the outfield.
"But he's got a nice mix of pitches, he does. He has an idea of what he's doing for sure."
Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso suggested that the visitors adjusted to the conditions as much as they adjusted to Fiers.
"It's so tough to see in these games because they have so many shadows out there," Alonso said. "You have to overcome those things. I think the first time around we saw him, we kind of got a feel for what shadows were doing and what he was working with, and after that, it was good."
In his last start, against the Pirates, Fiers scattered five hits, but allowed only one run through the first four innings before surrendering back-to-back home runs in the fifth. It was the third turn through the order.
Asked whether that trend was troubling, Roenicke said, "I still don't know him enough."