Lucroy delivers in ninth
The Milwaukee Brewers used the long ball to maximum effect Tuesday night.
They hit a season-high four home runs — all solo shots — with Jonathan Lucroy accounting for a pair. It was his second that powered the Brewers to a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park.
The all-star catcher led off the bottom of the ninth with a shot just over the wall in the left-field corner off Sam LeCure to break a 3-3 tie. He also homered in the sixth to give Milwaukee a 3-1 lead.
Throw in a St. Louis Cardinals loss, and the Brewers finished the night with a 11/2-game lead in the Central Division — their biggest cushion in nearly two weeks.
"Hopefully it's a sign of things to come," said Lucroy, who went into the game 3 for his last 30. "If we can keep playing this good, if guys keep pitching this good and we keep getting big ABs, we'll get the job done."
It was the first walk-off victory via homer this season for the Brewers and the second walk-off homer of Lucroy's career. His first also came against the Reds, when he took closer Aroldis Chapman deep for a victory last Aug. 16.
"I hit the ball hard a couple times," he said. "To be honest with you, the last couple of weeks have been kind of tough for making solid contact, but I'm glad to help the team out, contribute and get it done tonight."
Cincinnati scored twice in the seventh against Milwaukee to tie the game at 3-3, taking advantage of some wildness by starter Jimmy Nelson. Francisco Rodriguez (4-3) then pitched a scoreless top of the ninth to set the stage for Lucroy's heroics.
Milwaukee struck quickly against Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey.
With two outs in the first, Ryan Braun homered to right on a 96-mph fastball to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. It was his 13th of the season, and it just happened to come on the one-year anniversary of his 65-game, season-ending suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
Two pitches later, Aramis Ramirez reached down and pulled a slider out to left for his 12th homer and doubled Milwaukee's lead to 2-0.
Nelson, meanwhile, sailed through his first three innings on only 33 pitches, registering a strikeout in each. It was a far cry from his last outing July 12 — his first as a full-time member of the rotation — when he gave up eight hits and eight runs (six earned) in 41/3 innings to the Cardinals.
Speedster Billy Hamilton was the first to reach base, singling to center to lead off the fourth. He quickly stole second and went to third on a groundout before Nelson hit Todd Frazier to put runners on the corner for Jay Bruce, who doubled down the first-base line to halve Milwaukee's lead.
Nelson limited the damage to that lone run, however.
Following those first-inning homers, Bailey retired 11 straight until walking Lyle Overbay in the fifth. He then hit Jean Segura and with two outs walked Carlos Gomez to load the bases, but Rickie Weeks grounded out to shortstop.
Lucroy's first homer sailed into the Brewers' bullpen in left-center with two outs on a full count against Bailey to stretch the Brewers' lead to 3-1 in the sixth.
Nelson, who'd allowed only one base-runner over the fifth and sixth, was then quickly challenged in the seventh when Ryan Ludwick and Brayan Pena each singled to start.
Zack Cozart, next up, was knocked down as he attempted a bunt. Home-plate umpire Brian Gorman ruled he was hit by the pitch. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke challenged, only to see the call confirmed in 1 minute 18 seconds despite replays showing the ball clearly hit the bat.
"That's a bad call," said Roenicke. "For one, he bunted after the ball, so the guy at first base messed it up. And then, I don't know what New York's looking at — the ball hit off the bat and then hit his hand.
"So, we got bad calls."
Nelson followed that by hitting No. 8 hitter Ramon Santiago in the foot, driving in Ludwick and ending his night. Pinch hitter Chris Heisey then drove in Pena with a fly ball to left off Brandon Kintzler, making it 3-3.
Hamilton lined into a 4-6 double play to end the inning and at least preserve the tie for the Brewers.
Milwaukee has won three of five since the all-star break and four of six overall.