CINCINNATI (AP) - The NL Central's defending champions are on the verge of getting knocked out.
Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips each hit a two-run homer Saturday night, powering Cincinnati to a 6-2 victory over the fading Milwaukee Brewers.
Ludwick homered as part of a four-run first inning off Yovani Gallardo (8-7). Phillips homered in the eighth off Jose Veras, dropping Milwaukee a season-high 9 1/2 games out.
Milwaukee came to town needing a solid series to stay in contention. Instead, the Brewers have gotten all but pushed out of it.
``It's kind of the big blow, especially to the situation we're in,' Gallardo said. ``I think every game coming in here was a must-win. Unfortunately, we've lost the first two.'
The Reds, who won the division in 2010, are 6-2 against the Brewers this season. By winning the first two games of the series, Cincinnati left Milwaukee with little hope of getting back in it before the trading deadline.
``This was a big game,' manager Ron Roenicke said. ``Yesterday was a big game. I don't know. We'll see what happens.'
The Reds lead the NL Central and have gone 4-2 since first baseman Joey Votto learned he needed surgery for torn knee cartilage, replacing their top hitter through a combined effort.
The Reds have won 10 of 12 overall, moving a season-high 14 games over .500.
Bronson Arroyo (5-6) rebounded from his shortest start of the season, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings.
The Reds need an offense that's ranked in the middle of the NL to pick it up while Votto recovers from knee surgery, a process that will take three to four weeks. So far, they've pulled it off.
Jay Bruce singled home a run in the first inning, stole a base and scored on Scott Rolen's sacrifice fly. Ludwick followed with a two-run homer into the upper deck in left field, making it 74 consecutive games at Great American Ball Park with a homer. It's the longest streak since Coors Field had 80 games with a homer in 2002-03, according to STATS LLC.
Phillips' homer gave him seven RBIs in the last three games.
Gallardo was 4-1 in his last seven starts and was coming off one of his best games. He fanned a career-high 14 during a 4-1 win over the Pirates on Sunday. The right-hander struck out only one on Saturday while allowing four runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings.
The worst pitch was a fastball to Ludwick that strayed over the middle of the plate and doubled the Brewers' deficit.
``I fell behind on Ludwick and tried to go with a fastball in and it came back over the plate,' Gallardo said. ``That's a huge difference. If I make my pitch in that situation, I get out of it with two runs.'
Arroyo was coming off his worst start of the season. He lasted only three innings in a 5-3 loss to Arizona on Monday, unable to get his fastball moving or his control in order after the All-Star break layoff.
The Brewers were the perfect team for a rebound. Arroyo took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Milwaukee on June 26 at Great American before settling for no decision in a 4-3 win. He wasn't as dominating this time, but was good enough, giving up a pair of runs and five hits in six innings.
He reminded himself of how well he did against Milwaukee the last time.
``I watched video today,' Arroyo said. ``You try to forget past games, but I knew I'd had a good outing against somebody, and as I was watching the video, I was thinking, `There aren't many hits.' This ballclub is a comfortable lineup for me. It's comfortable enough that I feel like I can go deep into each game.'
Corey Hart singled home a run in the fourth. Milwaukee scored another in the sixth when Aramis Ramirez grounded into a double play.
NOTES: The crowd of 40,090 was the Reds' ninth sellout of the season. ... The four runs allowed by Gallardo in the first inning were more than he'd allowed in any of his last seven starts. ... Rickie Weeks grounded out twice against Arroyo, leaving him 6 for 41 career against the right-hander with 14 strikeouts. ... Rolen had his first triple of the season. ... Reds reliever Jose Arredondo took Jeff Bianchi's liner off his right forearm in the seventh. He stayed in the game and faced one more batter before leaving. ... Bruce improved to 12 for 26 in his career off Gallardo.
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