MILWAUKEE -- Jay Bruce and Jason Bourgeois homered to help make a winner of rookie left-hander Brandon Finnegan in his first Major League start, and the Reds climbed out of the National League Central cellar with Friday's 5-3 win over the Brewers at Miller Park.
Khris Davis and Jason Rogers homered for the home team but the Brewers lost their seventh straight game, dropping a season-worst 23 games under .500 (62-85) and back into last place in the division for the first time since Aug. 20. The Reds are 62-84, and bidding to avoid their first last-place finish since 1983.
Finnegan, acquired in the Reds' trade with the Royals for Johnny Cueto, held the Brewers to one run on three hits in five innings before Reds manager Bryan Price used a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth inning with a chance to score.
"For a young guy that a lot came quickly for last year, this still was a big stepping stone for Brandon," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He did transition into the rotation for us in Triple-A and wasn't spot on as far as having immediate success as a starter. This was his best start since he's been in our organization."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cingrani holds the lead: Brewers manager Craig Counsell didn't start Adam Lind against a lefty, but he did use him in the game's most critical pinch-hit opportunity. Lind stepped to the plate against southpaw reliever Tony Cingrani with the bases loaded, one run already across in the sixth inning, and the Reds clinging to a one-run lead. Lind shook his head after fouling off a first-pitch fastball in the middle of the strike zone, fell behind 0-2 and struck out swinging through Cingrani's 95-mph fastball away to end the inning. Bourgeois led off the next half-inning with a homer for insurance.
"That was the story of the game," Counsell said. "We just didn't get that 'next' hit. We needed a two-out hit. … I thought Cingrani did a pretty good job."
What a catch: With Reds closer Aroldis Chapman looming in the bottom of the ninth inning, Brewers reliever Corey Knebel held Cincinnati scoreless in the top of the frame with a big assist from center fielder Domingo Santana, whose running, leaping catch robbed Brandon Phillips of a run-scoring hit. The play loomed large when the Reds loaded the bases but couldn't add any insurance runs.
Can't stop him: Bruce continued his career dominance of the Brewers by homering off Davies in the fourth inning to put Cincinnati up, 2-1. It was Bruce's 31st home run against Milwaukee in his career, which is 11 more than he has against any other opponent. The solo shot to left-center field moved Bruce past Eric Davis for eighth on the Reds' all-time home run list at 204.
"I know he's disappointed with where his average is, but he produces runs," Price said of Bruce. "He hits homers, doubles, drives in runs."
Davis goes deep again: With his 22nd home run, Davis matched the career high he set last season in more than 150 additional at-bats. He's hit 15 of those home runs since Aug. 8; only the smoking-hot Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets (17) has hit more since that date.
"We need innings and we need starters. I would anticipate, unless there's a reason not to, that he'll stay in our rotation the rest of the year. " -- Price, on Finnegan
MAJOR LEAGUE POPUP
On only a handful of occasions in the Brewers' 15 years at Miller Park has a popup reached the roof support cables, but Davis did it in the bottom of the fourth inning. His popup caromed back into fair territory, where Finnegan made a diving catch, but third-base umpire D.J. Reyburn immediately made the correct call. Because the ball struck the roof structure in foul ground, it was a dead ball and a foul ball. Davis eventually struck out.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Since Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy beat Chapman with a walk-off, two-run home run on Aug. 16, 2013, Chapman has owned the matchup with Milwaukee. Including a hitless ninth inning on Friday that earned Chapman his 31st save, the left-hander has surrendered one hit versus 30 strikeouts in 14 straight scoreless appearances against the Brewers.
• Finnegan became the ninth rookie pitcher to start for the Reds this season, setting a club record.
WHAT'S NEXT Reds: In the middle game of the series Saturday (7:10 p.m. ET), rookie right-hander Josh Smith will make his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Sept. 8. The 28-year-old made three starts for the Reds in June and July, including one in which he allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Brewers on July 4.
Brewers: Two of Taylor Jungmann's best starts have come at the Reds' expense, evidenced by his 2-0 record and 0.64 ERA against them. He's held opponents to a .229 average this season. Jungmann's first pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. Andrew Gruman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.