CINCINNATI -- Once the season flipped to the second half, the Reds knew that time would quickly start moving against them. No games can be given away and they can't afford to drop further back in the standings. Rare is the time that a four-game series split at home is welcomed, but the Reds weren't complaining after one was earned Sunday with a 5-3 victory over the Brewers. "We were fighting for our lives today. It was a fight and a struggle," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We're scratching, fighting and clawing and trying to win every game we can."
It was a 3-3 game in the bottom of the eighth inning when Chris Dickerson led off with a single against Brewers reliever Seth McClung (3-3). Next up was Jonny Gomes, who deposited a 2-1 McClung pitch into the left-field seats for a two-run home run. "It's going to make that flight to the West Coast a little happier," said Gomes, who drove in three runs. "As a team, we need to soak up that win and get it into our system. We need to try and start a little run." It was a possible momentum-builder before the Reds open a six-game road trip vs. the Dodgers and Cubs this week. Cincinnati hasn't won a game at Dodger Stadium in nearly four years, and Los Angeles has the best record in baseball. The Reds, who entered Sunday losers of eight of the past 11 games, inched to three games below .500 at 44-47 and remained in fifth place in the National League Central, 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals. Cincinnati also moved back to a .500 home record at 22-22, which is something Gomes considered critical. "We need to start creating a home-field advantage, some late fireworks in the late innings," said Gomes. "Our bullpen is doing a great job of keeping us in the game. We just need to be aggressive at home in the eighth and ninth innings and get as many wins as we can. It's icing on the cake to beat a division team, too." The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo on Brandon Phillips' two-run single but lost it in the third inning. It was a 2-1 game when Milwaukee took advantage of a mistake by Reds starter Johnny Cueto. With a runner on first and one out, Ryan Braun hit a grounder back to the mound. Cueto turned and softly threw to second base for the force, which cost him any chance of turning two. The next batter, Prince Fielder, launched a 1-2 pitch for a two-run home run to right field. It was Gomes who promptly tied the game with an RBI single that scored Joey Votto in the bottom of the third. Gomes wasn't originally in Baker's lineup with the right-handed Gallardo pitching but was used when Laynce Nix had back stiffness. "I try to keep myself ready, one way or another," Gomes said. "I wasn't supposed to play the other day when Dickerson got hurt, too. If I can make that easy on Dusty for him to know I'm always ready, it's always good." Gomes is batting .310 with six homers and 19 RBIs this season but rarely starts vs. right-handers. "I don't think I'm labeled as that, but it's kind of the role I'm thrown into," Gomes said of being a platoon player. "I'd like to hit my way out of that role." Cueto took a no-decision after six innings of three-run ball, allowing 10 hits, one walk and fanning five. Mid-start, the right-hander and catcher Ryan Hanigan changed their approach to Brewers hitters. "They started using some more secondary pitches and getting them over and getting them off of that fastball," Baker said. "That was a great job of adjusting by both of them." The game eventually became a battle for the bullpens. Nick Masset struck out two in a perfect top of the seventh. David Weathers (2-2) pitched a perfect top of the eighth inning for the victory. Following Gomes' homer, Francisco Cordero worked the ninth inning for his 22nd save. For the past several days, players have been keenly aware that each win or loss can swing whether the Reds are buyers or sellers before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. "If we play well, the organization won't decide to start shipping guys here and there," Weathers said. "We have a good team. People have to realize we haven't hit that stretch yet where we put a lot of games together. When we do, we'll be right where everybody else is. They've all already done that. The next step is to get some momentum and build up."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.