CINCINNATI -- Supported by three home runs, ace Johnny Cueto worked a mostly smooth eight innings as the Reds handed the Brewers a 4-2 loss Tuesday to take the first two games of the three-game series. The Reds returned to .500 at 10-10 while the Brewers fell to 4-17.
Cueto gave up two earned runs and three hits without a walk while striking out six to improve to 2-2 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts. He matched the eight innings he threw in his previous start at Milwaukee. Closer Aroldis Chapman pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his fifth save.
"He was terrific," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Cueto. "He got touched up for the two solo home runs and [Adam] Lind hit that opposite-field base hit. Other than that, he was just impeccable."
Cincinnati took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning against Kyle Lohse when Joey Votto hit a 1-0 pitch to right-center field for a homer. Lohse retired nine of his next 10 batters, but ran into two-out trouble in the fourth inning. After a Jay Bruce single, Brandon Phillips blistered a 1-0 pitch for a two-run homer to straightaway center field. The next batter, Marlon Byrd, followed with a homer on a 1-2 pitch to make it a 4-0 game.
That was enough breathing room for Cueto, who did not allow a hit until Aramis Ramirez led off the fifth inning with a first-pitch homer to left field. Ryan Braun did likewise to begin the seventh when he sent Cueto's first pitch into the right-field seats to cut Milwaukee's deficit to two runs.
Lohse allowed four earned runs and seven hits over seven innings while striking out five and walking one. He has given up at least one homer in all five of his starts, and eight total this season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
No. 7 for Votto: Votto's homer, already his team-leading seventh of the season in only 88 plate appearances, snapped a 0-for-15 stretch for the first baseman. His career-high hitless stretch remains 0-for-16, which he had from Aug. 29-Sept. 2, 2009. Votto had six homers all of last season in 272 plate appearances.
"I wasn't expecting Votto to swing, or especially to do that kind of damage with it," Lohse said. "He hit a pretty decent down-and-away 1-0 curveball. You just have to tip your hat and say, 'Give me a new ball.'"
Finally, a hit: Ramirez broke up Cueto's no-hit bid when he led off the fifth inning with a 431-foot homer to left. Milwaukee's third baseman came into Tuesday with a career .354 average (17-for-48) and five home runs vs. Cueto. Ramirez was also hit by a pitch in the second inning and he was Milwaukee's only batter to reach safely through the first six innings. More >
Back-to-back jacks: When Phillips connected on a 1-0 Lohse pitch for a two-run shot to straightaway center field in the fourth inning, it was his first homer of the 2015 season. When Byrd followed by slugging a 1-2 pitch the opposite way for a homer to right field, it was the first time this season that the Reds hit back-to-back home runs.
Braun's back: Braun led off the seventh with a home run to right off Cueto, his second homer of the season. The first was April 20, off Cincinnati reliever Burke Badenhop. Braun had been left out of the starting lineup Sunday and Monday.
"You don't want to take it for granted that those plays will always be made. But this is my sixth year with Brandon, and there's other people who have been here longer with him, but there is a certain expectation. He's created that by being so consistently good at that position. We're lucky to have that type of infield defense." -- Price, on a slick defensive stop and backhanded throw by Phillips to take a hit away from Logan Schafer in the seventh inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Brewers have opened the season with seven consecutive series losses. "It's tough to do," Lohse said. "It's tough to stomach. It would be one thing if guys didn't care, but we care in here. It's one of the more frustrating things I've ever been through."
Brewers: The Brewers will try to win a third consecutive series finale Wednesday at 11:35 a.m. CT/12:35 p.m. ET against Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park. Matt Garza (1-3, 5.16) will start for Milwaukee. The Brewers have an off-day Thursday, then three games in Chicago against the Cubs.
Reds: To close out the Reds' homestand, Michael Lorenzen will be making his Major League debut when he faces the Brewers. In his three starts for Triple-A Louisville, Lorenzen was 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA, with 20 hits, four walks and 12 strikeouts over 19 innings. More >
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Andy Call is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.