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MIL@CIN: Weeks flashes the leather in the fifth

CINCINNATI -- Sometimes, Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez mused Thursday, baseball is just "crazy." How could an Opening Day that began so well for the Brewers end so badly?

"You can do everything perfect," Gomez said, "and you get a loss for it."

Rickie Weeks and Gomez became the first teammates in 42 years to lead off a season with back-to-back home runs, but closer John Axford couldn't protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning and the Brewers lost a stunner to the Reds, 7-6, at Great American Ball Park.

Ryan Braun also homered for the Brewers, Weeks and Casey McGehee drove in two runs apiece and right-hander Yovani Gallardo delivered six quality innings in his second consecutive Opening Day start. All that was missing was the finish.

Coming off a brilliant rookie season but a Spring Training that was shaky until the end, Axford served up long fly balls to each the final two hitters he faced. Jonny Gomes hit a deep sacrifice fly that looked like a grand slam off the bat, and catcher Ramon Hernandez followed with a three-run opposite-field home run to win the game.

"He throws pretty hard," Hernandez said. "He uses his fastball a lot. I was trying to catch up on his fastball and trying to hit it hard somewhere and keep the inning going. He left it a little over the plate, and I got it. I hit it pretty well."

The come-from-behind victory was nothing new for the Reds, who won 45 games that way in 2010 on the way to the National League Central title, tied for second most in the Majors to the Yankees' 48. Over in the visitors' clubhouse, the feeling was less familiar; Axford was 24-for-27 in save opportunities last season after taking over for Trevor Hoffman.

"I'll reflect a little bit," Axford said. "We have a day off [Friday] and a little workout, so I'll come in and check some video, but it'll be out of my mind and I'll be ready to go for Saturday. I think that's the best and the easiest thing. The best thing I did last year, whenever something like this happened, was to just let it go. Tomorrow's another day. We start fresh. It's a long year.

"We have 161 games left, and I'm pretty sure we're going to be all right."

The trouble Thursday was the same one Axford faced in his early Spring Training outings, and in the early part of his professional career, for that matter. The 93-96-mph fastball was there, but the location was not.

Hernandez hit a 93-mph fastball on the outer edge of home plate, but in the upper half of the strike zone. That's not where Axford intended it.

"I got away with one in the at-bat before with Gomes," Axford said. "This time I paid for it."

So did the Brewers, who were trying to win Ron Roenicke's managerial debut.

"It's a rough start," Roenicke said.

The Brewers actually got off to a great start on Thursday, with Weeks and Gomez jump-starting a three-run inning against Cincinnati starter Edinson Volquez that also included McGehee's sacrifice fly. When Gomez hit his 429-foot blast into Great American Ball Park's second deck, the Brewers had the first teammates to start a season with home runs since Pete Rose and Bobby Tolan did it for the 1969 Reds against the Dodgers.

Weeks added an RBI double in the second inning, Braun clubbed his solo homer in the fifth and McGehee provided an insurance RBI single in the seventh as the Brewers built a lead as wide as 6-2.

Reigning NL MVP Joey Votto started Cincinnati's comeback with a solo home run off Kameron Loe in the seventh inning, and the Reds rallied again in the ninth against Axford, when Brandon Phillips led off with a single off the left-field wall and Votto walked. Scott Rolen then reached on a crucial fielder's choice in which McGehee thought Phillips should have been called out for leaving the baseline but was instead ruled safe.

Axford got the first out by striking out Jay Bruce, and the second out on Gomes' scary sacrifice fly to straightaway center. That brought Hernandez to the plate for the decisive at-bat.

"It's not every day you see a guy walk off like today," Gomez said. "A 95 [mph] fastball, high, and he hits it the other way and walks off. But he did it."

Axford posted a 5.40 ERA in his 10 Spring Training appearances, allowing 10 hits and six walks in 8 1/3 innings and leading unnamed scouts to tell some national publications that the Brewers could be in trouble. But Axford allowed two hits and no runs over his final five spring innings, and didn't issue a walk in his last three outings of the spring.

"The velocity was there today. He threw some good breaking balls," Roenicke said. "It's just a matter of him spotting the ball a little better, but his stuff was good."

How will the rookie manager handle next few days with his closer?

"It depends," Roenicke said. "I just said a little something, but I'll swing by tomorrow and see how he is. I don't want to make a big deal out of it. Yes, it's a tough way to start, but we've got a long season to go, and I don't want him worried about it."

Said Gallardo: "I think everybody in this room, we all know what kind of stuff he has and the kind of person he is. I don't think it's going to affect him at all."

Friday is an off-day in the series, which resumes Saturday night. That means Axford would have to wait about 48 hours for a chance to take the mound again.

"If we learned anything about Ax, it's that he has some mental toughness about him," McGehee said. "He'll be fine. He made some pretty good pitches there. ... The next time he comes out of the 'pen, we'll all feel just as confident in him as we always do.

"There were too many good things that happened today to wallow in the fact it didn't turn out our way," McGehee said. "There are going to be days that you play a really good game and don't come out on the right end of it." Comments