CINCINNATI (AP) — Homer Bailey knew his history against the Milwaukee Brewers was a case of bad and worse. For the first time, he came away a winner.
Bailey matched his career high with 10 strikeouts while pitching eight innings for his first career win over Milwaukee on Friday night, leading Cincinnati to a 3-1 victory that preserved the Reds' lead in the NL Central.
Zack Cozart, Jay Bruce and Scott Rolen hit solo homers as the Reds won nine of their last 11 games, moving 13 games over .500 for the first time this season. But it was Bailey who got the attention.
"He works at it," manager Dusty Baker said. "He wants to be great."
Bailey (9-6) has beaten the defending World Series champion Cardinals and the defending division champion Brewers in his last two starts. He's won four straight starts for the first time in his career.
"I've kind of established a little bit of a routine," Bailey said. "I'm getting better at knowing what I need to do to prepare every day and now it's just leading to success."
The latest win was perhaps the best measure of how far he's come. The right-hander had been 0-5 in 10 career games against Milwaukee.
"Everybody knows when you're a starting pitcher, you always have teams you don't do well against," Bailey said. "I knew I never really did well against that team. You just try to put it behind you and make some pitches."
Cozart, Bruce and Rolen homered off Marco Estrada (0-4), who gave up seven hits overall in seven innings. Bruce and Rolen connected on 2-0 pitches one out apart to provide the winning margin.
Left-hander Aroldis Chapman struck out two in the ninth for his 16th save in 20 chances, hitting 100 mph with two of his 13 pitches. Twenty-five of his last 31 outs have come by strikeout.
Milwaukee came out of the All-Star break looking to make up ground in a stretch of games against Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Cincinnati. The Brewers have won four of seven and remain stranded in fourth place, now 8½ games back, matching their biggest deficit.
Afterward, Estrada angrily tossed a towel into his locker and stared ahead for a few seconds with his head down, unhappy with those two homers he gave up in the seventh inning.
"We need these games, especially against this team," Estrada said. "They're in first place and we're trying to catch up. When you go out and make dumb mistakes in the seventh inning, it kills you inside. Every pitch counts now. I threw really bad pitches at 2-0. It's really frustrating."
They couldn't do much against Bailey, who gave up six hits and matched his career high by fanning 10. Norichika Aoki's RBI double broke his shutout in the eighth.
Cozart's homer barely cleared the wall in left field with one out in the fourth. His first homer since July 6 made it 73 consecutive games with a homer at Great American Ball Park, the longest streak since Coors Field had 80 games in a row with a homer in 2002-03, according to STATS LLC.
Bruce hit his first homer since July 8 leading off the seventh inning. In his previous at-bat, Bruce doubled to snap an 0-for-19 skid that matched the longest of his career.
One out later, Rolen hit his first homer since June 22. The three homers were a season high off Estrada, who had allowed only 11 homers all season.
It was another solid but empty outing by Estrada, who has made four appearances since returning from the disabled list with a strained right thigh. He has given up three runs or less in each of those starts without getting a win.
The Reds have struggled offensively since Monday, when first baseman Joey Votto learned he needed surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. He had surgery on Tuesday and is expected to miss three to four weeks. He was in the clubhouse on Friday to get treatment, moving around with the help of one crutch.
The solo homers pulled them through.
Ryan Braun was back in the Brewers lineup after sitting out a game because of a sore groin. He singled in his first two at-bats, making him the 11th player in franchise history with 1,000 career hits.
NOTES: Braun tied Jeff Cirillo on the franchise list with 1,000 hits. ... Zack Greinke played catch on Friday and will throw in the bullpen on Saturday, getting ready for a start next Tuesday in Philadelphia. Manager Ron Roenicke decided to have him skip his last start because of fatigue. "He should be right back on track," Roenicke said. "He seems to be throwing fine. It's about his confidence as much as anything." ... Reds C Devin Mesoraco extended his hitting streak to a career-high eight games.
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