Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto each homered and drove in three runs, helping the Cincinnati Reds to a much needed 7-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
The Reds entered the day with three losses in their last four contests, but their win, coupled with a Washington loss later Saturday, put them 5 1/2 games ahead of the Nats for the final wild-card berth.
However, the team took advantage of Milwaukee's rookie starter Johnny Hellweg (1-4), tagging the right-hander for four runs on eight hits over five innings to pick up a half-game on Washington.
Choo scored three times and Todd Frazier produced an RBI single to back a solid outing from Homer Bailey (11-10), who worked around a three-run fourth to throw seven innings and stay undefeated in his last nine starts.
"Homer was good today, he struggled and struggled quite a bit in the game but made pitches when he had to and made plays to get out of jams," said Reds manager Dusty Baker.
Carlos Gomez had two hits, an RBI and a run scored in the setback for Milwaukee, which won Friday's series opener, 5-1.
The Brewers were within one at 4-3 after five innings, but the Reds recreated a comfortable cushion with three runs over the next three frames.
Votto hit his 23rd home run of the year in the sixth, a two-run shot that occurred two batters after Choo reached with a walk.
After plating three runs in the fourth, the Brewers' only hit over the last five frames came on an eighth-inning single from Gomez. The Reds had upped their lead to 7-3 in the top half of the frame, with the speedy Billy Hamilton scoring on a Choo sac fly after coming on as a pinch-runner. He moved into scoring position by swiping second, then was sacrificed over to third.
Khris Davis and Jeff Bianchi walked around Gomez's hit in the eighth to load the bases against Sam LeCure. However, Aroldis Chapman came in to fan pinch- hitter Jonathan Lucroy on four pitches to escape the threat. The Reds' closer then struck out the side in the ninth despite walking a pair of batters.
The Reds manufactured their first run, as Choo doubled to start the game, moved to third on a sacrifice and came in to score on Votto's fly to center. The inning continued with a walk to Jay Bruce and a single from Ryan Ludwick before Frazier made it 2-0 with line-drive single to right.
Hellweg's early struggles continued in the second. He plunked Bailey with one away, then fell into a 4-0 hole after Choo sent his offspeed pitch over the center-field wall.
"The first two innings toughened him," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke about Hellweg, who finished his outing with three scoreless frames.
Milwaukee got to Bailey in the fourth, reaching the righty for four hits and three runs. Scooter Gennett led off with a single and came all the way around to score on Davis's double to center. Gomez then knocked him in with a single, swiped second, moved to third on a fly out and made it 4-3 by scoring on Bianchi's sac fly.