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CIN@MIL: Bruce extends lead with three-run homer

MILWAUKEE -- Sometimes the luck of the draw in a baseball schedule is as good as a lottery scratch-off that never pays. The Reds certainly felt that way last month, when they caught the Nationals and Cardinals when they were white hot and struggled.

Then there were nights like Monday that seemed like instant riches. Just as they're starting to roll, the Reds encountered a limping Brewers club to keep the momentum going as they enjoyed a relatively smooth 6-1 victory in the series opener at Miller Park.

"It was a different lineup than you expect against these guys with the guys they had hurt," said Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who pitched 6 2/3 innings for the victory. "I was hoping [Ryan] Braun was going to sit out, too. I've never been one to be sad that the perennial players in the National League sit out against me. It was nice to get in there against some of the guys that haven't been playing all year for them."

Braun, who earned the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Award, did play and hit a two-out homer to center field off Arroyo in the first inning. But Milwaukee, which just endured a 3-6 trip through St. Louis, San Diego and San Francisco, was missing three regulars from its lineup. Two of them, Mat Gamel and Alex Gonzalez, suffered season-ending torn ACLs during the trip.

This isn't cycling, where the other teams stop and wait for the injured to gather themselves, especially an NL Central rival. Owners of the best winning percentage in the NL since April 19, the Reds have won three of four on the current six-game road trip and 11 of their last 16 games.

Within a span of 11 pitches to five batters in the top of the fourth inning, the Reds turned a 1-0 deficit against Brewers righty Marco Estrada into a 5-1 lead.

"It gets to be like a feeding frenzy," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "I've seen it from the other side, too. It's the game of baseball. You go to the bathroom and come back, it could be four or five runs on the board. That's how quickly it happens and that's how it happened for us tonight."

Estrada retired his first nine batters in a row, before Zack Cozart started the fourth by belting the first pitch he saw to left field for his third home run of the season. Drew Stubbs followed by hitting the next pitch for a double to center and scored on Joey Votto's RBI double into the right-field corner. After Brandon Phillips' single, Jay Bruce took Estrada deep --- very deep.

On a 1-0 changeup, Bruce lifted a towering shot to right-center that traveled an estimated 463 feet to the windows behind the bleachers. Bruce, who now owns a 10-game hitting streak, wasn't sure if that was as far as he's ever launched a baseball.

"It was definitely close," Bruce said. "It's usually as good as I can hit one, pretty much."

It was his team-leading ninth homer of the season.

"Getting a big lead like that is great, especially early," Bruce said. "It gives Bronson a little room to breathe and he did a great job. I think the first time around, [Estrada] cruised. And we got him in the zone a little better the next time around. We put some good swings on some balls. We can hit as a team."

After Braun's homer in the first, Arroyo retired seven of eight before running into his own trouble in the fourth. An Aramis Ramirez single to left field, coupled with Chris Heisey's fielding error, put runners on second and third with none out. Arroyo struck out Corey Hart and got a routine pop up from Jonathan Lucroy but walked Travis Ishikawa to load the bases with two outs before Cesar Izturis flied out to right field.

"Getting out of that inning was obviously the springboard to the rest of the game," said Arroyo, who gave up one run on six hits with one walk and nine strikeouts.

That was the start of Arroyo retiring 10 of his next 11 batters. While both team's pitchers benefited from the generously sized strike zone of umpire Dan Iassonga that resulted in a combined eight called strikeouts, Arroyo made life tough on Milwaukee's hitters as he changed speeds throughout.

"He threw all his pitches for strikes," Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks said. "I don't care if it was a fastball, cutter, changeup, curveball, all that stuff -- he threw them all for strikes, and in pretty much any count. And he kept us guessing throughout the counts. That's what the good pitchers do."

Through six starts, Arroyo is 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA. He was lifted by pitching coach Bryan Price in the seventh when he told his coach that he was out of gas. Logan Ondrusek and Sean Marshall picked up the remaining 2 1/3 innings to run the bullpen's scoreless innings streak to 22 1/3 innings over eight games.

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