The Brewers got through August unscathed this year. Now, Milwaukee is struggling in the regular season's final month.

Will Venable hit his first career homer and the San Diego Padres beat Milwaukee 5-2 on Thursday night, handing the slumping Brewers their fourth straight loss.

"What do you do? I don't know what the right formula is," Brewers starter Jeff Suppan said. "I'm just trying to play to win the game. That's what we're all doing, we're playing hard. You get a couple losses in a row, and you get ready for the next day. There's really nothing we can do about how other people feel about it."

The Brewers' wild-card lead was trimmed to four games over Philadelphia, and they fell five games behind NL Central-leading Chicago with 22 games left. Last year, Milwaukee, which hasn't been to the postseason since 1982, crumbled in August with an 8-19 record and never recovered. This year, they were 20-7 in August but started September 0-4.

"Every game's important so you feel like you have to win every single game, but you don't worry about it, you don't dwell on it," manager Ned Yost said. "I mean, we have a four-game lead in the wild card and we come back and try to win a game tomorrow, and that's the extent of our focus.

"If you start worrying about it, it starts piling up on you, and it's weight that you don't need. You really don't. You start worrying about things that you don't need to worry about."

Lately, the best move for NL teams with postseason aspirations has been not to play at all unless it's the New York Mets, winners of four in a row and six of seven.

Philadelphia has lost five of its last eight, Chicago five in a row and Arizona is 3-7 over its last 10. All those teams were off Thursday. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh 8-6 and Atlanta blanked Washington 2-0 in the NL's only other games.

Maybe the Brewers should've taken the day off, too.

"I'm sure everyone knows the circumstance, where we are, whatever, but it don't matter if you don't play good baseball," said Mike Cameron, who signed with Milwaukee in the offseason and is being counted on to provide defense and leadership down the stretch.

Suppan (10-8), who left the Cardinals for a $42 million, four-year deal before the 2007 season, entered 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts since August 1 but couldn't stop the young Padres.

"That's the season, you grind through it. When you learn that, you figure you just keep going until ..." Suppan said, trailing off. "There's so many different ways you can lead."

Nick Hundley and Luis Rodriguez each drove in two runs for San Diego, which snapped a nine-game road losing streak and is tied with Washington and Seattle for the fewest wins in the majors.

"I know it's been piling up," Padres manager Bud Black said. "I don't know what the number was. We haven't been good on the road, especially considering our arrival time and coming against a team that if the season ended right now is in the playoffs. That's a good club."

Reds 8, Pirates 2

At Cincinnati, Joey Votto hit a solo homer and a tiebreaking, bases-loaded single in the eighth inning, completing the Reds' rally from a five-run deficit.

By scoring three times in the eighth, the Reds avoided a sweep by the Pirates, who have dropped 11 of their last 13 games.

Craig Hansen (0-3) couldn't hold a one-run lead in the eighth, when his wild pitch let in the tying run. Hansen has given up runs in six of his nine appearances with Pittsburgh, which got him from Boston as part of the three-team trade involving outfielder Jason Bay.

Nick Masset (1-0), who came to the Reds in the trade that sent Ken Griffey Jr. to the White Sox, got the victory despite giving up a solo homer to Nate McLouth in the eighth. Francisco Cordero earned his 27th save in 33 chances.

Braves 2, Nationals 0

At Atlanta, James Parr tossed six sharp innings in his major league debut, leading the Braves to the win.

Parr (1-0) surrendered just two hits _ both to Ronnie Belliard _ walked three and struck out three. Jeff Bennett worked the seventh, Julian Tavarez pitched the eighth and Mike Gonzalez got three outs to complete the five-hitter, Atlanta's seventh shutout of the season.

Gonzalez has converted all nine of his save opportunities this season and 39 straight overall, the longest current streak in the major leagues, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Shairon Martis (0-1) also pitched well for visiting Washington in his major league debut, allowing two runs and four hits in five innings. Belliard went 3-for-3.

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