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CIN@MIL: Greinke strikes out 11 over eight innings

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time since Zack Greinke traded his Royals blue for Brewers navy, he faced reporters in a quiet Miller Park clubhouse.

Chalk it up as another disappointment for the scuffling Brewers. They watched Greinke dazzle for eight scoreless innings on Wednesday only to lose to the Reds in the ninth, 2-1, their first loss with Greinke on the mound in a home game.

They had won each of his first 18 regular-season Miller Park starts, plus two in the postseason. Now that streak is over and a more troubling one is alive: four consecutive series losses. The Brewers have dropped five of their last six series and have a 13-19 record with the season nearing the one-fifth marker.

"We don't do percentages," left fielder Ryan Braun said. "We'll be all right."

The Brewers may be all right if a starting staff that carried them to the National League Championship Series can get on a roll. There were positive signs in this series, most notably from Greinke, who spent the afternoon locked in a duel with equally tough Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto. It was a prime pitching matchup that actually lived up to the billing.

Greinke delivered the better outing, working eight scoreless innings to Cueto's seven, and he deserved a better fate after allowing only two hits with no walks and 11 strikeouts.

"The guy can pitch," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You knew when the game started that there was a good chance that there wouldn't be any runs scored, on either side."

The Brewers had their early opportunities against Cueto, who worked around five hits, struck out five and delivered his fifth consecutive quality start. He has allowed only one run over his last three outings.

Milwaukee put runners at first and third with one out in the second inning and loaded the bases with two outs in the third. Both rallies fizzled. Recent callup Taylor Green grounded into a double play to end the second, and Aramis Ramirez grounded out to end the third.

Ramirez's groundout followed Braun's infield single, a dribbler along the third-base line that would stand as Milwaukee's last hit off Cueto until Green smacked a line-drive double with two outs in the seventh inning.

He was stranded, too, when Cesar Izturis grounded out.

"I knew it was going to be tough. [Cueto] is probably the most underappreciated pitcher since he's been healthy last year," Greinke said. "His numbers are pretty insane, and I don't think I've really heard anyone talk about him being one of the better pitchers in the league. Maybe it's time to start that."

Izturis' out bought the Brewers one more inning of Greinke, who would have been replaced by pinch-hitter George Kottaras and reliever Francisco Rodriguez had Izturis reached base. Greinke struck out the side in the eighth inning on 13 pitches.

Greinke struck out 11 in all, the 15th double-digit strikeout game of his career and the first by a Brewers pitcher this season. His last 10-strikeout game was also against the Reds, last Sept. 18.

"[Cueto and Greinke] thoroughly dominated the game," Braun said.

The hitters finally asserted themselves in the ninth.

In the top of that inning, the Reds snapped a scoreless tie off Brewers closer John Axford, with Drew Stubbs, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips delivering successive two-out hits. Stubbs' was a broken-bat single with two strikes, Votto's a double that just cleared the glove of second baseman Rickie Weeks and rolled into the gap, and Phillips' a soft single to center field.

"That's just the way baseball goes sometimes," Axford said.

Axford has not allowed a run while going 6-for-6 in save opportunities, but he has otherwise run into trouble. He has made five appearances without a save on the line and been charged with a run in four of them.

"We stole one from him," Baker said. "It's great whenever you can sneak out a win against [Greinke and Axford]."

The Brewers nearly worked their way back into it.

Braun greeted Reds closer Sean Marshall in the bottom of the ninth with a homer to halve the deficit, and Jonathan Lucroy's 11-pitch at-bat sparked the second wave of a rally. Lucroy and pinch-hitter Norichika Aoki singled to knock Marshall from the game after 35 pitches.

The next reliever, Logan Ondrusek, walked Kottaras to load the bases for Travis Ishikawa, the third consecutive pinch-hitter. Ishikawa swung at the first pitch and hit a game-ending flyout.

"He's up there, [and] if he gets a good pitch to hit, he should hit it," manager Ron Roenicke said of the game-ending at-bat. "I have no problem with him swinging at the first pitch."

The Brewers are off on Thursday before hosting the Cubs on Friday.

"The fact we have not played well so far is not for a lack of effort, not for a lack of preparation," Braun said. "It's a lack of execution. ... We have to find a way to win games and ultimately to win series."

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