After falling behind the Cardinals in the standings the night before, the Brewers' sixth straight loss left them in a virtual tie for third place with another surging National League Central rival, the Pirates.
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Four teams are now bunched near the top of the division. The Brewers and Pirates were temporarily 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs, pending Chicago's outcome in Arizona later Friday night.
Manny Pina's two-run home run off Reds starter Homer Bailey briefly gave Milwaukee a 2-1 lead in the second inning, but things quickly went downhill for Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson. He was charged with 10 runs (nine earned) on 11 hits, including nine singles. Nelson walked three, though one was an intentional pass to Joey Votto in the third inning before the Reds broke the game open with six runs on five two-out singles, then tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning to make it 10-2.
The Brewers made it interesting with a seven-run sixth inning highlighted by Eric Thames' three-run homer, but they stranded the tying runner at third base and did not threaten again.
Bailey, coming off a start against the Cardinals in which he surrendered a career-high 10 earned runs, held the Brewers to two runs on five hits in five innings for the win.
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Death by papercut: Nelson's one-out walk to Billy Hamilton set up Cincinnati's six-run rally in the third. After the intentional walk to Votto, Nelson struck out Adam Duvall to put the Brewers an out away from escaping with the lead, but Scooter Gennett kept the inning alive with a bloop, two-run single to right field that made it 3-2. The Reds kept going, tacking on with Eugenio Suarez's run-scoring single, Jesse Winker's opposite-field, two-run double down the line and Tucker Barnhart's infield hit, which produced a run when Brewers second baseman Jonathan Villar committed his second error of the inning.
Not over yet: The Brewers entered the bottom of the sixth inning in a 10-2 hole but managed to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs, and the go-ahead run to the plate with one out. The big blow of a seven-run rally was Thames' three-run home run off Reds reliever Blake Wood, who surrendered five runs without recording an out. Thames' team-leading 26th home run to straightaway center field was his ninth against the Reds this season, the most for any Major Leaguer against one team.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.