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MIL@CIN: Greinke goes six strong to earn ninth win

CINCINNATI -- Where did this particular victory fall on Milwaukee's must-win meter?

"We needed to win this game," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We're getting too far behind. We're not playing the way that we want to play."

Those recent struggles mostly took a reprieve on Wednesday, when Zack Greinke capped a successful June and Rickie Weeks and Cody Ransom hit two-run home runs, powering an 8-4 Brewers victory that denied the front-running Reds a series sweep.

But in dropping two of three games to first-place Cincinnati, the Brewers left the Queen City worse off than they arrived -- now 7 1/2 games back, with three teams ahead of them in the standings and the season's midpoint looming.

Both Roenicke and left fielder Ryan Braun, who sat Wednesday with a bruised elbow, spoke of the urgency of the Brewers' situation.

"I think we're in as good of a place [mentally] as we can be, all things considered, but we're also realists and recognize we haven't played well," Braun said. "We've put ourselves in a position to win games and found a way to lose, a lot, in a lot of different ways. That's the biggest difference between last year and this year."

For a change Wednesday, they put themselves in position to win and actually won. Greinke worked six quality innings before the Brewers opted for an offensive opportunity in the seventh, and relievers Kameron Loe, Francisco Rodriguez and Livan Hernandez closed things out.

The Brewers played long ball in the early innings, with Weeks putting the Brewers on the scoreboard with a two-run homer off Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey in the second inning -- Weeks' first home run since May 26 -- and Ransom adding another two-run homer in the fourth.

Then they took a more comfortable lead in the top of the ninth, when one Reds misplay, three Brewers singles and three walks, two of them by Cincinnati reliever Jose Arredondo with the bases loaded, extended the Brewers' lead to 8-3.

Greinke capped his solid month of June by allowing a run apiece in the third and fourth, but he limited the Reds to those two runs and five hits in six innings for his fourth quality start in five June outings. He finished the month 3-0 with a 1.70 ERA.

Roenicke argued for an even better outing, saying outfielder Nyjer Morgan should have been charged with an error on a missed fly ball in the third. Had he been, Greinke would have been charged with only one earned run.

The Brewers cut Greinke's outing short at 96 pitches in the top of the seventh, when a Carlos Gomez double put Brewers runners at second and third base with nobody out in a 5-2 game. Roenicke inserted pinch-hitter Taylor Green.

"The only way we were going to do it was if it was second and third, no outs," Roenicke said. "Everything else, Zack was going to stay in the game. First and third, he was going to stay in the game -- anything else. So, yes, it was a tough call."

Green worked a walk that loaded the bases with nobody out, but the Brewers came up empty in the inning. That kept the Reds within striking distance, but Loe pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, Rodriguez overcame some leg cramps for a scoreless eighth and Hernandez surrendered only a harmless Ryan Ludwick homer -- Ludwick's second of the day -- in the ninth.

"I feel like we've been playing good all month and just not putting any streaks together," Greinke said. "We should be winning more games than we are, it feels like."

He added: "We're a little bit out, but we have a lot of talent on our team."

July could be a big month for the Brewers and for Greinke, a pending free agent who is sure to draw trade interest if the team continues to sputter. The Rangers happened to have a scout on hand Wednesday, according to FoxSports.com.

But Roenicke is not worried about the background chatter becoming a distraction.

"He's been pretty good to push other things aside," Roenicke said.

He pointed to Grienke's June 12 start in Kansas City as an example, a seven-inning, one-run gem that marked Greinke's first trip back to the city he called home for parts of seven Major League seasons.

Greinke has a way of tuning everything out, Roenicke said.

"I think he prepares so well and is so focused on what he does, I don't think that's going to affect him," Roenicke said.

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