MILWAUKEE -- The top of the Brewers lineup provided the offense and Jimmy Nelson settled in nicely following a shaky start against the Reds to give Milwaukee a 5-4 win on Sunday at Miller Park.
Milwaukee's 1-2-3 hitters -- Jonathan Villar, Hernan Perez and Jonathan Lucroy -- went 5-for-7 with three walks and drove in all five of the team's runs. Cincinnati jumped out to a 2-1 lead as Nelson retired only one of the first seven batters he faced. But the Brewers right-hander sat down 17 of his final 21 hitters, finishing with 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball and five strikeouts to pick up the win.
"All we can do as starters is try to put up zeros and give us a chance to come back," Nelson said. "That's what the guys did. It was good. I found my fastball a little better after those first couple of innings."
A day after snapping an 11-game losing streak, the Reds lost behind starter Brandon Finnegan. The left-hander pitched into the seventh inning and allowed four runs on six hits and four walks.
"Boyer is a good pitcher, pitching out of his typical role," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We were able to get some guys on base and do some things, some good two-out at-bats by the guys … and just weren't able to finish it off. It was good to see that there was a lot of fight there in the end."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Take what you can: Villar's trademark aggressive baserunning helped produce the first run of the game. In the first inning, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips made a running catch of a Perez popup in foul territory, but went to the ground after hitting his ankle against the padding on the wall. Villar, who led the inning off with a single, tagged up from first base and raced all the way to third, beating the hobbled Phillips' throw. The heads-up play led to a run when the next batter, Lucroy, hit a sacrifice fly to center field to put the Brewers up 1-0.
"We kind of got [hurt] over there in the first with BP's play he made," Finnegan said. "It was a great play, he's sitting there hurting, guy gets to run two bases and we kind of get [hurt] because the next two guys pop out. But I guess that's part of the game."
Bruce loves Miller Park: As he is wont to do vs. Milwaukee, Jay Bruce went deep off Nelson. He hit a leadoff home run in the top of the second inning to make it a 1-1 game. It was Bruce's ninth homer of the season, his 35th lifetime against the Brewers and 13th at Miller Park -- his highest career totals vs. any opponent and at any road ballpark.
Lucroy seeing Red: Lucroy's hot bat from the first two games of the series carried over on Sunday afternoon. He opened the scoring in the first inning with a sacrifice fly to score Villar. In the third inning, he followed Perez's game-tying RBI double with a bloop single to center field to put Milwaukee up, 3-2, and added an insurance run with an RBI triple in the seventh to extend the lead to 5-2. Lucroy finished the series going 6-for-11 with two home runs and nine RBIs.
"I see it as one of those things where it was a matter of time where he was going to start executing that pretty routinely," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Lucroy's run production. "It really fits into the style of hitter he is and what he's good at." More >
Missed opportunity: Following Bruce's homer, the Reds had a chance to wreck Nelson's day as they loaded the bases with no outs on a hit batsman and a pair of singles. The threat yielded one run, however, when Barnhart grounded into a 6-4-3 double play that scored Adam Duvall. Finnegan grounded out to end the inning. Nelson gave up just one more hit on the afternoon -- a fourth-inning single to Duvall, which was erased by Holt's inning-ending double play. The Reds' next hit didn't come until Holt's two-out single off of Boyer started a rally in the ninth.
"He's doing a lot of everything right now." -- Counsell, on Villar, who went 2-for-2 with two walks, three runs scored and an RBI single on Sunday along with collecting his league-leading 18th stolen base
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Lucroy has three RBIs in three straight games, only the second player in Brewers history to pull off that hat trick. The other was Robin Yount in 1987.
On the Perez foul pop in the first inning, Phillips hurt his left ankle when he smashed into the wall. He spent a few minutes being looked over by Price and head trainer Steve Baumann but remained in the game. Phillips was clearly bothered the rest of the game and had trouble running out groundballs.
"We'll see how he comes out of it [Monday]," Price said. "He wrenched his ankle there pretty good and wanted to stay in and be out there competing with his teammates. I knew it was painful. These veteran guys, you can really put it in their hands unless the training staff feels they really need to come out. He wanted to gut it out, and he did. It also sends a good message to the young players that are here that you don't have to come out of games if you can stay in."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the sixth inning, Joey Votto bounced into what appeared to be a double play with a groundball to Villar at shortstop. Running to second base, Billy Hamilton was called out by umpire Marvin Hudson, who thought Hamilton was tagged on the foot as he jumped away from Villar. The Reds thought Villar missed and challenged the call. It was overturned when replay officials deemed that Villar indeed missed the tag.
In the bottom of the eighth, Ramon Flores was called safe when he stole second base as De Jesus made a sweeping tag on the leg during his head-first slide. After a quick review, Hudson's call was ruled to stand.
WHAT'S NEXT Reds: The road trip moves on to Colorado for a four-game series vs. the Rockies that begins at 4:10 p.m. ET Monday. A change in the rotation plans has moved Dan Straily up a day to start on his regular four days of rest. Straily tied a career high when he struck out 11 in seven innings vs. the Dodgers on Wednesday, but he took a 3-1 loss.
Brewers: The Brewers will play host to the Cardinals for a three-game series, starting on Monday at 1:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Junior Guerra will get the start, hoping to improve on his 3-0 record and 3.30 ERA. Milwaukee is undefeated in his five starts this season.