CINCINNATI -- The Reds played perhaps their best game of 2016, with Alfredo Simon pitching into the eighth inning and getting plenty of offense -- including home runs from Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Adam Duvall -- in a 9-5 win over the Brewers on Thursday.
Simon gave up three earned runs and seven hits over 7 2/3 innings with one walk and five strikeouts, in the process extending the Reds rotation's streak of quality starts to five games. Milwaukee scored its first run on Aaron Hill's two-out RBI single in the fifth inning. A two-out, two-run homer from Alex Presley in the eighth ended Simon's night.
"Today, I just come and try to do the best I can, and everything come true," Simon said.
The Reds sent nine men to the plate against Brewers starter Chase Anderson in the first inning. Following a sacrifice fly from Phillips for the game's first run, Bruce cranked a three-run home run to right field for his fifth long ball of the season. After Duvall reached on a two-out throwing error by Jonathan Villar, Tucker Barnhart's RBI single added an unearned run for a 5-0 Reds lead.
In the second inning, Phillips made it a 7-0 game with a two-run homer to left-center field on a 2-2 pitch, his third long ball of the season. Anderson did not allow another hit over the rest of his outing, but the damage was already done. The Brewers righty conceded seven runs (six earned) and six hits over five innings with two walks and four strikeouts in his fourth consecutive defeat.
"We need Chase," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's important that we get him going."
Duvall's two-run homer in the ninth was his third in his last three games.
"We've all seen so many games, and you see games that get away that you should win every now and again and that, when you score early and you don't score again, sometimes the opposing teams don't feel like you're out of it," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "The add-on runs, even if it's a single run every few innings, it makes a difference. I think it really keeps a team that's behind not feeling like they have as good of a chance to come back."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bruce is brewing power: Bruce lifted Anderson's 75 mph first-pitch curveball deep into the right-field seats for a three-run homer in the first inning. A perennial Brewers killer, Bruce has nine homers in his last 21 games vs. Milwaukee, and his 34 career long balls vs. the Brewers is second to only Albert Pujols' 42 among active players.
"I think Jay Bruce has been in the division for 10 years, and he's a good player," Counsell said. "When you make mistakes to good players, they're going to do good things. [Anderson] tried to get ahead with a first-pitch curveball, and he put a good swing on it."
Bullpen bashing: When Brewers slugger Chris Carter connected against J.J. Hoover for a booming home run leading off the ninth inning, it extended to 23 the Reds' Major League record streak of team games with a relief pitcher allowing at least one run. The homer was Carter's 10th this season, tied for second in the Majors behind the Rockies' Nolan Arenado, who hit No. 12 on Thursday night.
"You can't turn away when he's hitting, that's for sure," Counsell said.
Simon says brief inning: Simon faced the minimum batters through his first four innings and induced three ground ball double plays. One of them came in the four-pitch top of the fourth following Villar's first-pitch leadoff single. Presley saw two pitches before grounding into a fielder's choice, and Ryan Braun then bounced the first pitch he saw from Simon to Cozart at shortstop to start a 6-4-3 double play.
"I used my two-seamer and was just lucky they hit it our way. I got ground balls and made good pitches," Simon said.
"I thought he struggled throwing strikes in his first three starts, and he did a good job of throwing strikes tonight," Counsell said. "We got some action later in the game, but every time we got somebody on, he got a ground ball. He did a good job for them. He threw strikes tonight. He's good stuff stuff; when he's in the zone with his stuff, he's effective."
Homer-(un)happy: Phillips' home run off Anderson in the second inning further exacerbated Anderson's trouble with the long ball. In his last four starts, all losses, the Brewers righty has surrendered 34 hits, including eight home runs, in 18 1/3 innings. He has a 10.31 ERA in those games after allowing no earned runs in his first two Brewers starts.
"I have to give the offense a chance, because I know these guys can score runs," Anderson said. "But when you put them behind the eight-ball, like the last couple of times I've been out there, it's hard to score runs. The starting pitcher sets the tone. I have to do a better job of that, for sure."
"'Ueck' has volunteered to pick up the ball after it stops rolling." -- Counsell, on who would catch Wily Peralta's throwing session back in Milwaukee while the right-hander is on the paternity list. Bob Uecker, the Brewers' legendary radio announcer, did not make this road trip.
"I'm just trying to get good pitches now and focus on getting a good pitch to hit, not being overly aggressive and not being too patient. I'm kind of getting into a groove right now. Hopefully we keep that rolling." -- Duvall, who is the first Reds player this season to homer in three consecutive games
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: Right-hander Tyler Cravy made a surprise appearance in the visitor's clubhouse Thursday, before the Brewers announced he would make a spot start Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT in place of Wily Peralta, who was placed on the paternity list following the birth of a daughter. Cravy, who was just beginning to stretch out as a starter at Triple-A, will probably be limited to about 85 pitches.
Reds: When the series against the Brewers continues at 7:10 p.m. ET Friday, Tim Adleman will be on the mound for his second big league start with the Reds. Adleman is coming off of a nice six-inning debut on Sunday at Pittsburgh as a replacement for the injured Raisel Iglesias.