The Milwaukee Brewers arrived in Cincinnati within 7 1/2 games of the first-place Reds. They left in a shambles, behind Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the NL Central.
"We're a distant fourth now and we should be," Ryan Braun said. "All three of those teams have played better than us. They just have. They ability's there, but we haven't executed or put it together to this date. We pitch great and we don't score runs. There are other days we score a lot of runs and don't pitch. I guess plenty of times we just found a way to lose. It's challenging."
Wilson Valdez drove in the tying run and scored the go-ahead run to back the gritty pitching of Johnny Cueto as the Reds beat the Brewers 2-1 on Sunday and wrapped up one of the best homestands in franchise history by going 8-2.
Cueto (12-5) overcame a 30-pitch first inning, which ended with Milwaukee leaving the bases loaded, to complete seven while throwing 117 pitches. He gave up eight hits and one run with one walk. He tied his season high with nine strikeouts and capped his day by getting Braun, the NL home run leader, to fly out to center field with two outs and the potential tying run on third in the seventh inning.
"We had missed opportunities," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We had our chances, but Cueto has the stuff to get out of trouble. When you have a lot of opportunity but face a pitcher who doesn't give up many hits, you're not going to come through a lot."
Mike Fiers (3-4) lasted six innings, allowing five hits and two runs — one earned — with four strikeouts. He also hit a batter.
Fiers' throwing error to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning. Chris Heisey singled with one out, stole second, and scored on Wilson Valdez's single to right-center field. Valdez went around to third on Fiers' errant pickoff attempt and scored on Brandon Phillips' sacrifice fly to center. The Brewers thought Heisey was out on the steal.
"It's frustrating," Fiers said. "You're trying hard to win. You get tired of losing. We didn't score a lot of runs but I'm trying to keep Valdez close and throw the ball away. I feel like we should still be playing. I had a view of Heisey's steal. My opinion was different from the umpires."
Cueto matched his single-season career high in wins as the Reds posted at least eight victories on a homestand of 10 or fewer games for only the fifth time in franchise history. The last time was in 1975, when the Reds went 8-1 on a homestand.
First-place Cincinnati sandwiched three-game sweeps of NL Central Division-rivals St. Louis and Milwaukee around a split of a four-game series against Arizona and maintained its lead over Pittsburgh in the division. The Reds, who lead the Pirates by a half-game, are 5-2 since learning that All-Star first baseman Joey Votto needed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Logan Ondrusek pitched the eighth inning. Aroldis Chapman allowed a two-out walk to pinch-hitter Carlos Gomez, who stole second, before Chapman earned his 17th save by striking out Braun.
Neither team hit a home run, snapping at 74 the streak of consecutive games in which at least one homer was hit at Great American Ball Park. The streak had been the longest active streak in the majors.
Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead in the third on Norichika Aoki's leadoff double and, after strikeouts by Nyjer Morgan and Braun, a run-scoring opposite-field single to right-center by Aramis Ramirez.
NOTES: The Reds are 24-13 against Milwaukee over the last two seasons and 17-6 against the Brewers in Cincinnati over the last three seasons. ... RHP Mat Latos, who allowed a career-high 10 hits in his last start against Houston on April 29, gets a chance to improve on that when he faces the Astros on Monday at Minute Maid Park in the first game of Cincinnati's seven-day, six-game road trip. ... LHP Randy Wolf is scheduled to start for Milwaukee in the opener of a three-game series at Philadelphia. Wolf's win in his last start on Tuesday against St. Louis was his first in 13 starts since April 30.