CINCINNATI -- The Reds are hot, but Eric Thames is hotter -- at least when he gets to swing for the fences at Great American Ball Park.Jesus Aguilar hit his 19th home run to tie Nolan Arenado and Bryce Harper for the National League lead, and four innings later, Thames
CINCINNATI -- The Reds are hot, but Eric Thames is hotter -- at least when he gets to swing for the fences at Great American Ball Park.
Jesus Aguilar hit his 19th home run to tie Nolan Arenado and Bryce Harper for the National League lead, and four innings later, Thames smashed a go-ahead three-run shot in the seventh, as the Brewers came from behind to cool the Reds, 6-4, on Thursday.
It was Thames' sixth home run in 33 at-bats at this venue and his 13th home run in 20 games against the Reds over the past season and a half. Before he put the barrel of the bat to Amir Garrett's 95-mph fastball, Thames had no home runs or RBIs against a left-handed pitcher this season.
Now he's 3-for-3 with three home runs against the tough Cincinnati southpaw.
"Personally, that was awesome, but for the team, that was a huge hit," Thames said. "Off the bat I was like, 'Aw, thank you!' The boys needed that. And, of course, the bullpen came in and shut the door."
That was a nod to Taylor Williams, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel, who combined for three innings of scoreless relief and kept the Brewers 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Cubs in the National League Central.
Cincinnati sits in the division cellar but has not been playing like a last-place team. The Reds entered the night having won nine of their last 10 games and 12 of 15, a stretch that began against the Pirates and Tigers but more recently pitted them against the postseason-hungry Cubs and Braves.
And it looked like more of the same for much of Thursday night, when Brewers center fielder Christian Yelich exited with back stiffness in the first inning, moments before Jose Peraza delivered the Reds' first leadoff home run of the season. It became a two-run opening inning for Cincinnati against Brewers starter Junior Guerra.
Aguilar and Jesse Winker traded similar two-run home runs in the third inning to give the Reds a 4-2 advantage, and Cincinnati starter Anthony DeSclafani carried that lead into the seventh, when the bottom of the Brewers' batting order produced a pair of one-out baserunners via Erik Kratz's walk and Orlando Arcia's second single of the night.
Two batters later, with two outs and Garrett on in relief, Thames connected for a 5-4 lead.
It was Thames' first homer off a lefty in more than a year, since he hit one off the Padres' Ryan Buchter last June 6. But the Milwaukee slugger hit a pair of home runs off Garrett last April, part of an outrageous opening month in which Thames hit 11 home runs, including eight at the Reds' expense.
"We only have two lefties. I can't ask the guys, 'Hey, what do you guys throw to him?' Because they are righties mostly," Garrett said. "We have video and stuff like that, but the stuff that got him out before may not get him out tonight.
"It is just one of those nights. I came in there, gave it up and this loss is on me."
Manager Craig Counsell borrowed a phrase from Yelich's favorite ballcap. It says, "Good vibes."
"It was not positive vibes after the first inning," Counsell said.
But it wasn't over.
"Eric's blow was the big one," Counsell said. "We were down there, and Garrett has been really good this year. Eric has had a little success against him in the past, so it was a huge hit. Tonight was a good win, man. We had a lot of guys do a lot to contribute."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Another for Aguilar: Aguilar's home run was his eighth in his last nine starts, and once again, it came down to his final strike. Ten of the slugger's 19 home runs and 32 of his 54 RBIs have come with two strikes, the most in the Majors on both counts. Many of those home runs have been moonshots, but not Thursday's, when the baseball left his bat at 91.4 mph for the softest-struck Brewers homer since Statcast™ started tracking in 2015.
"He just barrels everything, and if he doesn't, it's still a hit somewhere on the field," said Thames. "He's incredible. He's quick and he's on the field every day, every inning. He's carrying our team." More >
Sweet relief: The home runs made headlines, but don't overlook Jeffress, who retired all four batters he faced, including a trio of strikeouts in the eighth inning. In the seventh, he relieved Williams with the tying runner at second base, two outs and dangerous Scooter Gennett at the plate. Gennett hit a sinking line drive toward right field, where second baseman Brad Miller made a tough catch to end the threat.
"He threw the ball really well tonight," Counsell said. "Brad made a nice play for him on Scooter's ball, but the eighth inning was really, really good."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In one of the friendliest bench clearings you'll ever see, the Brewers and Reds sprinted to the scene as Joey Votto and Kratz exchanged words amid a Votto at-bat in the third inning. No punches were thrown and players from the two sides could be seen playfully putting their arms around one another before play resumed. Votto flied out on the next pitch.
"Completely blown out of proportion, that's all," said Kratz. "We were discussing the Canadian dollar and flawed systems in our two governments. He was coming from a different side of it, and we were just discussing those kinds of things."
• Benches clear after Votto-Kratz argument
Chase Anderson will look to continue his career success against the Reds when the series continues Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT. He is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in eight career starts against Cincinnati, including a win at Great American Ball Park on May 1 that saw him allow four runs over 5 1/3 innings, but the Brewers scored a 7-6 victory. The Reds will counter with Sal Romano, a right-hander who is 0-4 with a 6.27 ERA in four career starts against Milwaukee.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.