Many of us have been critical of Aaron Hill this season, but the veteran infielder gave us all a thrill tonight, spearheading a rousing comeback with 3 homeruns and 7 RBI. He homered in his final 3 at bats, bringing the Brewers within 1 with a two run shot in the 5th, tying the game with a solo blast in the 8th, and capping things off with a 10th inning grand slam that put the Brewers up 10-6. Is this the start of a wonderful relationship, culminating in a trade that brings back prospects, or will it join Chad Moeller's cycle as an oddity in Brewer lore? (I apologize to Aaron...no pictures exist of him doing good things at the plate as a Brewer. But boy, did he do good things at the plate tonight!)
The Brewers followed the script of the first two games of the series, falling behind early...and often. The Reds scored in the first without a hit, although a walk to Billy Hamilton is as good as a double. Or, in this case, a homer. Jimmy Nelson walked him with one down, and he stole second with Joey Votto at the plate. After Votto took a called third strike, Brandon Phillips popped out to third. Unfortunately, before that result Hamilton stole third and scored when Jonathon Lucroy thought perhaps the base could catch a throw and tag out the runner, as Hernan Perez was playing well behind the bag and wasn't covering. Even if the base had caught the throw, Hamilton would have been safe. Perez dove for the throw, but could only deflect it into left.
The Reds two second inning runs were more traditionally scored, but equally frustrating. Jay Bruce did what he does against the Brewers, doubling to the gap in right center to lead off the inning. Nelson hit Eugenio Suarez on an 0-2 pitch. Adam Duvall hit a seeing-eye grounder between third and short to load the bases. The Brewers took the double play on a grounder to Aaron Hill at second, leaving a runner on third with two down. Unfortunately, pitcher Brandon Finnegan drilled Nelson's first pitch between short and third for an RBI single and the Reds led 3-0.
The Reds tacked on one more in the bottom of the third when a Brandon Phillips pop-up bounced off the top of the leftfield wall and into the seats. The Brewers wasted a challenge for fan interference, and the homer stood.
The Crew finally broke through in the top of the fourth when Ryan Braun golfed a low off speed pitch well out to straight away left leading off the inning. Four pitches later the Brewers were expediently dispatched.
Some good defense and some bad defense by the Reds cancelled each other out in the top of the fifth, and the Brewers couldn't come up with the big hit again. One run scored on a bases loaded fielder's choice from Perez, but Braun tapped a 3-2 pitch over Finnegan's head for the third out, Cozart to Votto. Earlier in the inning, Zack Cozart made a diving play on a Yadiel Rivera grounder, and his flip to Phillips forced Ramon Flores. Flores had singled to lead off the inning. Nelson laid down a sacrifice bunt, and catcher Tucker Barnhart dropped the ball leaving all runners safe. Disappointing to only produce one run. 4-2 Reds heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Nelson couldn't hold the Milwaukee momentum in the bottom of the frame. The Reds first three hitters singled, and Hamilton's speed made the RBI hit from Votto an interesting play. With runners on first and third, Billy took off on the first pitch to Votto, and Joey hit it sharply through the shift-vacated shortstop position. Hamilton never broke stride and came all the way around to score. Perez took the relay from Braun and thought better of trying to get Hamilton at home, but the ball popped out of his hand as he stopped his throwing motion. Votto took second, and the Brewers had their second error of the night. Votto died at second as Nelson retired the next three hitters. 6-2 Reds.
The top of the sixth saw Finnegan reach the end of the road. A homer by Lucroy, an error on Phillips, and a homer from Aaron Hill (extending his hitting streak to 8 games) brought the Brewers within 1 at 6-5. Finnegan was gone, and Steve Delabar stopped the hemorrhaging. 6-5 Reds.
Aaron Hill continued to work on his trade value with his second homer of the night, in the eighth inning off of hard-throwing righty JC Ramirez, tying things up at 6-6. None of Hill's homers were cheap. He has made solid contact for two weeks now, and the Brewers are fortunate that he has started to hit with the loss of Scooter Gennett to the DL. If both can hit when Scoot returns to the line-up, the offense will add some serious depth.
The Brewers' pen did a fine job in relief of Nelson with four innings of shut-out, two-hit ball from the sixth through the ninth.
The Brewers broke it open in the top of the tenth. Reds reliever Caleb Cotham faced 5 hitters and didn't retire one, allowing 3 singles, a double, and a grand slam to game hero Aaron Hill. All 5 scored, as Jonathon Villar almost hit the Brewers second grannie, settling for a double off the wall pinch-hitting for Perez. Alex Presley also scored on the play, as the Reds decided that throwing to an uncovered third base looked like fun. In all, 7 runs crossed the plate and it was 13-6 into the bottom of the tenth.
Carlos Torres finished things off in the bottom of the inning by throwing strikes, allowing a solo homer to Phillips (his second of the game, if you can't remember back to the third inning). Uplifting win for the Brewers (now 12-18), who will send Junior Guerra (1-0) out to face John Lamb (0-0) for the Reds (now 13-18) in the finale of the four game series for the Mothers' Day tilt tomorrow afternoon.