CINCINNATI -- Keon Broxton announced his return to the big leagues in a big way, and he picked the perfect night.
With Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich sidelined by injuries Friday night, and Ryan Braun about to join them on the bench, Broxton was a one-man highlight reel in an 8-2 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park. He hit his first two big league homers of 2018, drove in four runs, scored on a circus play and made a spectacular diving catch in a victory that carried the Brewers to the mathematical midpoint of their regular season with the National League's best record.
Chase Anderson pitched six stellar innings, and Milwaukee (48-33) maintained its 2 1/2-game lead over the second-place Cubs in the NL Central with 81 games in the books, and 81 to go.
"I think it's probably one of my best games ever, honestly," said Broxton, who was promoted from the Minors over the weekend after Cain hit the 10-day disabled list with a groin injury.
Broxton, whose infield single in Thursday's series opener was his only hit in his first two games back with the Brewers, smacked an RBI single in the second inning and a solo home run in the fourth against Reds starter Sal Romano, then he punctuated his productive night at the plate with a two-run shot in Milwaukee's five-run ninth.
They were Broxton's first home runs in the Majors since last season, when he was one of MLB's nine 20/20 players, but also posted the league's highest strikeout rate for a team that set the all-time strikeout record for a second straight season. That led GM David Stearns to acquire outfielders Cain and Yelich in January, which led to Broxton beginning the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Now, with their outfield depleted by injuries, the Brewers need him, and Broxton's contributions weren't limited to the long ball. In the eighth inning he teamed with Orlando Arcia to steal a run by spoiling a Reds rundown. In the ninth, Broxton robbed Scooter Gennett with a diving catch. Arcia flashed some leather earlier on a running grab to keep a hit from dropping in the outfield in the fifth.
"That's a great performance," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "I think it speaks to our depth again. We've had a couple guys come up and have games like that, where they've made really, really meaningful contributions. The [Ji-Man Choi] game comes to mind. [Broxton] had a heck of a game, for sure."
Broxton's efforts were amplified by the fact the Brewers were without Cain and Yelich, who sat out with a stiff back. They also lost Braun in the seventh inning when he developed back stiffness of his own and had to leave the game.
Anderson moved to 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA by holding the Reds to one run on two hits -- Tucker Barnhart's shift-beating single down the third-base line with one out in the fourth inning, and Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen's line-drive home run with one out in the sixth. Anderson also walked one and struck out five.
"The thing I'm most excited about is not what I did, but for [Broxton] to come up here and step in, and continue what he did last year," Anderson said. "Obviously, he's a big league player who was kind of out of luck in Spring Training. When we got Yelich and Cain, there wasn't a spot for him.
"To come up and do what he did tonight -- just an all-around game. That's really good for us right now. It gave us a little bit of a boost when we needed it."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
It was still a tight game in the eighth when Broxton turned a potential baserunning mistake into a big insurance run. One pitch after he and Arcia pulled off a double steal, Broxton was nearly picked offat third base. But in a play reminiscent of an escape pulled off by Cain and Yelich against the Cubs earlier this month, Arcia and Broxton managed to extend the rundown long enough to draw a throw back to second base, which allowed Broxton to score.
"Keon caused a little traffic jam, but there's no question Arcia's paying attention to the game against the Cubs when Cain does it, and he did the same exact thing," Counsell said. "It turned out a little bit different, but it disrupted their rundown, obviously. At the time, it was a huge run to make it 3-1."
The Brewers have hit a home run in 17 straight games at Great American Ball Park over the past three years, tying for the second-longest streak by any team -- including the Reds. The home team holds the mark for the longest such streak, with a long ball in 18 straight games in 2010.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
After the Brewers padded their lead with a five-run rally in the ninth, Broxton put the finishing touch on his career night when he dove for Gennett's fly ball to the right-center-field gap and made a terrific diving catch. The umpires took a second look and confirmed the call.
"Scooter's probably going to be really mad at me," Broxton said of his former Brewers teammate, "but he's going to have to wear that one, I guess."
HE SAID IT
"Look, we've earned this. We've earned where we're at. It's been a successful first half of the season, and now we've got to keep backing it up." -- Counsell
Jhoulys Chacin was the Brewers' steadiest starting pitcher before he allowed eight earned runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Cardinals at Miller Park earlier this week. He'll look to bounce back in Saturday's 3:10 p.m. CT game against Tyler Mahle and the Reds at Great American Ball Park, where Chacin is 0-2 with a 4.67 ERA in five career games and four starts.