Lucroy returns to form, hammers walk-off winner

Jonathan Lucroy entered Tuesday with just three hits in his last 30 at-bats and hitting .164 in July, lowering his batting average from .334 to .308. But he broke out in a big way against Cincinnati.

Jeff Hanisch

MILWAUKEE — Jonathan Lucroy was so consistent in the first-half of the season that a stretch of eight games in which he struggled at the plate began to raise questions as to whether the workload placed on the catcher was becoming a cause for concern.

So much for that.

Responding in a big way, Lucroy blasted two home runs Tuesday night, including a walk-off blast in the bottom of the ninth to send the Milwaukee Brewers to a 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park.

"To be honest with you, the last couple of weeks have been kind of tough for making solid contact, but I’m glad to help the team out, contribute and get it done tonight," Lucroy said.

Lucroy entered Tuesday with just three hits in his last 30 at-bats and hitting .164 in July, lowering his batting average from .334 to .308.

Before the game, manager Ron Roenicke and Lucroy both stressed the recent struggles at the plate had nothing to do with how much time the 28-year-old has spent behind the plate. Lucroy has caught 22 of Milwaukee’s last 25 games and played first base in another one of those contests.

Roenicke took Lucroy’s deep fly ball to center field late in Monday night’s victory as a sign of good things to come and was proven right a day later.

"I think he’s been swinging the bat better than not getting any hits lately," Roenicke said. "I know he’s frustrated because he thinks he’s been squaring up some balls. He wasn’t locked in, but today, obviously, big day."

Lucroy’s first home run Tuesday was a solo shot to the Brewers bullpen off Reds starter Homer Bailey with two outs in the 6th, putting Milwaukee up 3-1 at the time. The run proved to be crucial when Cincinnati rallied for a pair of runs off Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson in the top of the seventh to tie the game.

Brewers 4, Reds 3

Facing reliever Sam LeCure to start the ninth, Lucroy hit a 1-1 fastball out to left field for the second walk-off homer of his career. Lucroy’s first career walk-off blast came against the Reds in August of last year, a two-run shot to left off All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman.

"You always have to try to capitalize on mistakes and a lot of that depends on the pitcher giving them to you," Lucroy said. "When you have a good arm on the mound and he’s executing pitches down in the zone, that’s really hard to do. I was able to capitalize on a couple of pitches left up in the zone. I was able to square them up and hit them hard so it worked out."

The victory clinched Milwaukee’s first series win since June 27-29 when it took two of three from Colorado. After dropping seven of their first 10 against the Reds, the Brewers have won two straight from their division rivals.

With St. Louis’ loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, Milwaukee moved to 1 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals for first place in the National League Central.

"Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come," Lucroy said. "If we can keep playing this good, if guys keep pitching this good and we keep getting big ABs, we’ll get the job done.

"Hopefully we continue to do that. As long as our pitching keeps us in the game, we’re going to win. Hopefully we get that chance every night."

Gennett leaves: Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett left Tuesday’s game with tightness in his right quadriceps.

Gennett has been bothered by the tight quad since Saturday, when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Milwaukee’s 8-3 loss to Washington. The leg tightened up on him when he tried to beat out a groundball to second base in the third inning.

"Scooter I’m sure won’t be in there tomorrow," Roenicke said. "He’ll be day to day. He’s had this for a couple days; we tried to go easy on him yesterday."

Replay confusion: There was quite a bit of surprise in the Brewers dugout when a challenged call didn’t go their way in the seventh inning Tuesday.

With two runners on and nobody out, Nelson hit Zack Cozart with a pitch as the Reds shortstop squared around to bunt. Replays appeared to show the ball hitting the bat before Cozart, but the call on the field was confirmed after a review of one minute, 18 seconds.

"That’s a bad call," Roenicke said. "For one, he bunted after the ball, so the guy at first base (umpire Chris Segal) messed it up. And then, I don’t know what New York’s looking at — the ball hit off the bat and then hit his hand. So, we got bad calls."

Roenicke first asked home-plate umpire and crew chief Brian Gorman to ask Segal if Cozart offered at the pitch, but Segal ruled there was no offer. That left Roenicke to challenge whether the ball hit the bat first.

"(Coach) John Shelby got back to us that the ball hit the bat first and then hit his hand, and I could see it," Roenicke said. "So, I don’t know. It’s frustrating when you look up there and see what it is and you don’t get the call."

Cozart didn’t end up scoring in the inning, but the Reds did tie the game at 3. Nelson followed by hitting Ramon Santiago to force in a run, while Chris Heisey evened the score with a sacrifice fly. Brandon Kintzler was able to minimize the damage after the Reds tied the game, getting Billy Hamilton to hit a line drive to second baseman Rickie Weeks that turned into an easy double play.

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