MILWAUKEE — Christian Yelich hit a game-winning single, Sal Frelick launched his first major league home run and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 on Monday night in their NL Central showdown.
Milwaukee overcame a colossal two-run homer by Elly De La Cruz, who was robbed of a home run earlier on a leaping catch by center fielder Joey Wiemer.
Despite going 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position, the first-place Brewers moved 1½ games ahead of Cincinnati, which had won five straight.
“We left a lot out there. They made some good pitches and we just couldn’t cash in,” Yelich said. “We just kept getting traffic, though. If you keep getting traffic, eventually something good’s going to happen.”
All-Star closer Alexis Díaz (3-2) entered in the bottom of the ninth inning and didn’t get an out. He walked Blake Perkins and allowed a single to pinch-hitter Jesse Winker before Yelich drove in Perkins with a grounder into right field for the seventh walk-off hit of his career.
Devin Williams (5-2) pitched a perfect ninth for Milwaukee, which has won six of the seven meetings between the teams since July 7.
The Reds took a 2-1 lead against starter Colin Rea in the second on De La Cruz’s sixth homer of the season and second in two days. It left the rookie's bat at 114 mph and traveled 456 feet to right-center field, soaring over the stands.
De La Cruz hit the third pitch of the game 405 feet to center, where Wiemer made a leaping grab at the top of the wall.
“It’s crazy how much one run, the very first play of the game, the difference that that can make," Reds manager David Bell said.
Rea allowed two runs in six innings, striking out five and walking one.
Frelick tied it at 2 with a solo homer in the fifth.
“Definitely surreal. Kind of blacked out running those bases so I don’t really remember too much, but I’m really happy to see one go over the fence,” he said.
Reds starter Graham Ashcraft pitched into the sixth inning for the fifth consecutive time, but threw 110 pitches. He repeatedly worked out of jams, matching a career high with eight strikeouts and inducing three double plays.
Yelich scored on a single by William Contreras in the first.
Andruw Monasterio reached base in all four plate appearances for Milwaukee, with two hits and two walks. He also stole a base.
WHO NEEDS OFFENSE?
Milwaukee leads the NL Central despite ranking last in the National League in OPS, slugging, on-base percentage and batting average. Brewers pitchers have the NL’s third-lowest ERA at 3.93.
HANGING IN THERE
After giving up the first-inning run, Ashcraft struck out Willy Adames and got Frelick to hit into a double play. With two runners on and one out in the second, Ashcraft struck out Jahmai Jones and Wiemer. In the third, with two runners on and one out, Ashcraft escaped on a double play. Monasterio led off the fourth with a double and went to third on a flyout, but Ashcraft struck out Brice Turang and Jones.
Reds: Placed C Curt Casali (bruised left foot) on the injured list and reinstated SS Kevin Newman (gastritis) from the IL.
Brewers: LHP Justin Wilson (Tommy John surgery) rejoined the team following a rehab assignment with Triple-A Nashville.
Reds: Recalled RHP Daniel Duarte from Triple-A Louisville and optioned RHP Levi Stoudt to Louisville.
Brewers: Sent RHP Jason Alexander outright to Triple-A Nashville. OF Raimel Tapia cleared waivers and elected free agency.
Reds LHP Andrew Abbott (5-2, 2.10 ERA) faces Brewers RHP Corbin Burnes (9-5, 3.49) in the middle game of the series Tuesday.