CINCINNATI -- Scooter Gennett and his new team are doing a good job of playing spoiler at the expense of his former team.
Gennett's three-run homer capped a five-run seventh inning in the Reds' 9-3 win over the Brewers on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park, pushing Cincinnati to the brink of a three-game sweep of postseason-hungry Milwaukee.
"I like hitting home runs off any team, but knowing all of them and being able to kind of look at them when I'm running around the bases is always fun," Gennett said.
After an uplifting stretch that included series victories against the playoff-bound Dodgers and Nationals and a two-game split with the Cardinals, the Brewers' consecutive losses against the last-place Reds cost them a chance to gain ground in the National League Central and the NL Wild Card races. The Brewers stayed 3 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who also lost a second straight on Tuesday, and fell 2 1/2 games behind the Rockies for the second National League Wild Card spot.
"It's coming down to crunch time and we're going to figure it out," said Brewers starter Zach Davies, who took the loss. "I don't think we've clicked on all cylinders in all aspects of our lineup and pitching staff, so now's as good a time as any."
Davies held the Reds to two runs (one earned) in 5 2/3 innings to lower his ERA over his last 14 starts to 2.37, but got little help from a Brewers offense which matched a season high by taking 10 walks but twice left the bases loaded before finally breaking through against Reds starter Robert Stephenson with a run in the seventh. Travis Shaw's two-run homer in the eighth came after the Reds' game-breaking rally against Brewers relievers Jacob Barnes and Wei-Chung Wang, the latter of whom surrendered Gennett's blast.
Waived by the Brewers during the final days of Spring Training, Gennett has 24 home runs and 85 RBIs for the Reds.
"With a team like that and the bats they have in their lineup, it's always nice when you can tack on a few more runs to get you some breathing room," Gennett said.
Stephenson surrendered two or fewer earned runs for the fifth straight start, holding Milwaukee to one run over six innings despite four hits and six walks. He struck out seven.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Reds strike first: The Brewers have been playing an infielder, Jonathan Villar, in center field of late to make use of his recently-productive bat, but it burned them in the third inning. Villar got to Stephenson's deep fly ball but dropped it for a two-base error, and Stephenson scored two batters later when Villar was unable to get to a Zack Cozart bloop that went in the books as an RBI double. It stood as the game's only run into the sixth inning.
"We have had to take risks to get to the spot we are, and we will continue to take risks," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Tonight, it burned us."
Brewers come up empty: The Brewers had a golden opportunity to answer in the next half-inning, when Stephenson sandwiched a pair of walks around a Ryan Braun single. Teams score at least one run about 85 percent of the time when they load the bases with no outs, but for the second time in five games, the Brewers found themselves in the other 15 percent. Domingo Santana followed Shaw's four-pitch walk by swinging at two straight pitches at the bottom of the strike zone, and eventually took a fastball for a called third strike. Stephen Vogt and Villar followed with swinging strikeouts on off-speed pitches to end the threat.
"We couldn't stop them when when we needed to, and we couldn't get the run across to tie the game or take the lead when we needed to," Counsell said. "It's a frustrating night, for sure."
"We took two of three from the Dodgers, three of four from the Nationals, and then we come here and for some reason we've been a little flat. That's a good hitting team over there, but offensively, we need to do a better job." -- Shaw
"We're still playing to win. We're not conceding anything. We're playing to do everything we can to win each game within reason. The guys play hard. They've played hard all year." -- Reds manager Bryan Price
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After rookie Ariel Hernandez surrendered three walks and Shaw's homer in the eighth, Raisel Iglesias notched the final six outs for his 25th save. Iglesias has seven two-inning saves this season and a Major League-leading 10 saves of more than one inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers:Matt Garza gets the start for Milwaukee as the Brewers and Reds close their three-game series at 11:35 a.m. CT on Wednesday. Garza was originally scheduled to start Sunday against the Nationals, but was bumped in favor of what essentially was a bullpen day for the Brewers. Wednesday's game is likely to be managed the same way, with liberal use of relief should Garza find trouble.
Reds: In the 12:35 p.m. ET series finale, Luis Castillo is slated to make his final start of 2017. At 2-7 with a 3.32 ERA in 14 big league starts since his June 23 promotion from Double-A Pensacola, Castillo has a total of 161 2/3 innings pitched this season.