Stayin’ On Top

Published 1:30 am Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CINCINNATI — Jonny Gomes made sure the Cincinnati Reds’ trip to the top would be more than a one-night visit.

Gomes completed a five-run rally in the seventh inning by hitting a three-run homer, and the Reds earned themselves a second straight day in first place by beating the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3 on Monday night.

Gomes’ homer off Todd Coffey (1-1) sent the Reds to their eighth victory in nine games, a surge that moved them into the top spot in the NL Central — a place they haven’t been so deep into a season since 2006.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s going to be a battle from here on out,” Gomes said. “We’re wearing the first-place jersey now. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”

Johnny Cueto (3-1) fanned seven and gave up seven hits in seven innings, including Corey Hart’s solo homer. Hart also homered off Daniel Ray Herrera in the ninth.

The sleepy and slumping Brewers lost their season-high seventh straight, one that followed a numbing pattern. When the bullpen got involved, things fell apart.

“I’ve said all through this stretch, the intensity and the effort of the players has been good,” manager Ken Macha said. “The games have been won or lost by how our bullpen is going.”

For Cincinnati, this one was about staying power.

A fan wearing a Reds batting helmet and a red shirt with a “1” on the front danced in the second row behind the dugout when the team took the field for warmups, yelling: “First place! First place! First place!” The scoreboard made a point of emphasis to show the division standings, drawing cheers.

The move up has left the Reds’ diminished fan base a little giddy. Cincinnati is coming off nine straight losing seasons.

Milwaukee is in an astounding slump of its own.

The Brewers are horrendous at home — 4-14, the worst start in club history. They lost to Philadelphia 4-2 on Sunday night, completing an 0-6 homestand. They made the short flight to Cincinnati, landed at 3 a.m., and got little sleep before taking on a hot team.

Cueto was coming off the best game of his career, a one-hitter for a 9-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday. He got some help from his defense in this one — two Brewers were thrown out at the plate, keeping it close until the seventh.

Francisco Cordero got the final two outs for his 13th save in 15 chances, retiring Ryan Braun on a fly ball with two runners aboard to end it.

Coffey took over for Yovani Gallardo in the seventh and gave up a leadoff triple to pinch-hitter Chris Heisey. Orlando Cabrera singled up the middle for a 2-1 lead, and Scott Rolen added a sacrifice fly. The Brewers intentionally walked Jay Bruce with two outs to face Gomes, who connected on the first pitch for his fifth homer.

“When the guy in front of you walks, you dig down a little deeper,” Gomes said. “You have a quiet little character check. I was able to put a good bat on a good pitch.”

Coffey gave up five hits and all five runs.

“Just embarrassing is what it was, plain and simple,” Coffey said. “For me, it’s unacceptable. There are no words to describe it right now.”

Plate umpire Brian Gorman warned both teams when Coffey hit Drew Stubbs after the homer.

Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 10 games — best on the team this season. The shortstop also nailed Alcides Escobar when he tried to score from third on a grounder in the first inning. Stubbs threw out Gregg Zaun in the fourth, when he tagged on Gallardo’s routine fly to center.

NOTES: Former University of Cincinnati QB Tony Pike threw a ceremonial pitch. He was drafted by Carolina in the sixth round. … Brewers OF Carlos Gomez, sidelined since May 6 by a strained left rotator cuff, is expected to start a rehabilitation assignment at Class A Brevard County on Wednesday. … LHP Manny Parra will start the second and final game of the series. Parra has made 15 relief appearances. He started 27 games last season. … It was Hart’s second multihomer game. … 2B Brandon Phillips’ error ended the Reds’ streak of 11 games without one, their best stretch since 1997. … The game lasted 3 hours, 2 minutes. Milwaukee leads the majors with 27 games taking 3 hours.