CINCINNATI (AP) — Billy Hamilton doesn’t look like a home run hitter, except when he faces the Milwaukee Brewers.
The slightly built Cincinnati Reds leadoff batter hit his third homer of the season against Milwaukee — more than half of his season total — to help send the Brewers to a 4-2 loss Friday night, their 11th loss in their last 15 games at Great American Ball Park.
Jonathan Lucroy hit a solo homer for Milwaukee, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Cincinnati’s pitching and the balanced Reds’ offense, which included RBI doubles by Skip Schumaker and Joey Votto.
“We always seem to play them well,” Lucroy said. “For some reason, they have our number this year. They’re in our division, so we have to figure out a way to get them.”
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke offered one reason for the Brewers’ struggles against the Reds, who improved to 6-2 against Milwaukee this season, including 4-1 in the Queen City.
“I don’t know if it’s here or there,” he said. “They’re a good team. It’s not surprising that they win ballgames. They’re a good team.”
Alfredo Simon moved into a tie for the National League lead with his 11th win for the Reds, who were coming off being swept in a three-game series at San Diego.
Simon (11-3), making his career-high 17th start, moved into a tie with the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke and the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright for the NL lead in wins.
“He throws hard — 95 (mph) — and he’s added an ‘eephus’ curve that comes in at 69,” Lucroy said. “When he comes in on you with that two-seamer (fastball), it’s one of the best around.”
The Central Division-leading Brewers dropped their fourth straight, matching their longest losing streak of the season.
Simon allowed six hits and two runs with two walks, three strikeouts and a wild pitch in 7 1-3 innings to improve to 5-0 over his last seven starts.
Jonathan Broxton got the final two outs of the eighth and Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his 17th save.
Milwaukee starter Kyle Lohse (9-3) lasted five innings, allowing four runs — three earned — and seven hits with eight strikeouts and one walk while picking up his first loss in five starts since June 6. He was 2-0 over his previous four starts.
Before a crowd of 42,120, Cincinnati’s fifth sellout of the season, Simon helped the Reds take a 2-0 lead in the third inning. He lined a single with one out, and Hamilton followed on the next pitch with a 344-foot home run into the visitors’ bullpen down the right field line. It was the fifth of the season for June’s National League Rookie of the Month.
“I knew he was an aggressive hitter,” Lohse said. “I was trying to throw a changeup down and I just pulled it and left it out there for him.”
The Reds scored as many runs in that span of two batters as they totaled against the Padres. They made it 3-0 in the fourth on consecutive doubles by Devin Mesoraco and Schumaker. Mesoraco was robbed of a home run by center fielder Carlos Gomez, who went high above the wall in deep right-center and almost pulled off a highlight-reel catch before settling for keeping the ball in play.
“I had Mesoraco where I wanted him, but I didn’t execute a good slider, and I didn’t execute a good curveball on Schumaker,” Lohse said.
Lyle Overbay’s error set up Cincinnati’s fourth run. The first baseman couldn’t corral Todd Frazier’s spinning chopper with one out in the fifth inning, and Frazier scored all the way from first on Votto’s double into the left field corner.
The Brewers broke up the shutout in the seventh, which Simon started by hitting Aramis Ramirez, who moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Jean Segura’s single.
Lucroy knocked Simon out of the game in the eighth with his ninth homer of the season, a 374-foot drive to right-center that bounced off the top of the wall and into the stands.
NOTES: Simon’s previous career high in starts was 16 for Baltimore in 2011. … The Reds won their second straight game in front of a sellout crowd after losing their first three this season. … Milwaukee recalled OF Logan Schafer from Triple-A Nashville on Friday. Schafer, who was optioned on June 13, had travel problems that delayed his arrival at Great American Ball Park, but he was in time to start in left field. … Reds OF Jay Bruce extended his streak of consecutive hitless at-bats to 20, surpassing his previous career high of 19. … The Reds opened their busiest home stand of the season. They are scheduled to play 11 games in 10 days, including a doubleheader against the Cubs on Tuesday created by a rainout.