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MIL@CIN: Estrada allows one hit, K's nine over seven

CINCINNATI -- Brewers starter Marco Estrada was moving too quickly in the first inning of Sunday's series finale against the Reds. As a result, he allowed a base hit and a walk before he saw the fourth batter.

Once he worked his way out of the jam, Estrada had a conversation with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, and what followed was six masterful innings from the righty, and, more importantly, a 3-1 win for the Brewers.

"After that [conversation], I slowed things down, and I started throwing more strikes," Estrada said. "I had a good changeup today, and we made sure we used it a lot."

Estrada recorded a season-high nine strikeouts and allowed just one hit in seven shutout frames, three shy of the career high he set in Cincinnati in June of last year. Five of those strikeouts came by way of the changeup.

"He had us eating out of his hand," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. "This was the best changeup we've seen in a long time. We knew it was coming. They knew it was coming. That was similar to Mario Soto's changeup when I was facing him. You knew it was coming. We couldn't do anything with him until they got him out of the game and got to their relievers."

Before Estrada settled in on Sunday, he was fortunate to escape the first inning unscathed after Shin-Soo Choo led off the bottom of the frame with a single and went on to steal second and third. After a Joey Votto walk, Brandon Phillips hit a fly ball to center field, where Carlos Gomez made the catch. Gomez's throw was off target, but Estrada was able to back up the play and get the ball to catcher Jonathan Lucroy for the tag at home to end the inning.

From then on, Estrada couldn't be touched.

The 30-year-old right-hander retired 15 in a row before Choo worked a walk with two outs in the sixth. It took Estrada just nine pitches to breeze through the fourth inning. He then struck out the side in the fifth, part of a stretch in which he fanned six consecutive batters. Estrada said he wasn't aware of how many strikeouts he had until he heard someone on TV mention it while he iced his shoulder after the game.

"You don't keep track of those things," Estrada said. "You just try to make pitches and get out of it as fast as you can, get through innings quick. If you get a strikeout, great, but you're not looking for them."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said it wasn't a difficult decision to replace Estrada -- who admitted to being somewhat gassed in the sixth inning -- before the top of the eighth. Estrada finished with 100 pitches, 63 of which he threw for strikes.

"It would have been nice," said Estrada, who is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts since spending two months on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. "But with the weather the way it was, I was a little tired. The sixth inning, I started to lose it a little bit. ... That was the right call. Seven innings was pretty good."

Estrada left the game with a three-run lead, as the Brewers jumped on the board in the top of the second.

Gomez reached base to start the inning when he was hit by a pitch from Cincinnati starter Greg Reynolds. Two batters later, right fielder Caleb Gindl -- playing in place of Norichika Aoki -- drilled a 397-foot home run over the wall in right field.

"Just trying to do whatever it takes to help the team win in that situation," Gindl said. "Runner on first, the hole's open, so I'm thinking maybe pull the ball a little bit. That was kind of my thinking. He left a pitch for me that I could handle, and [I] just put a good swing on it and it went out."

It was the second homer in as many days for Gindl, who enjoyed playing in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

"Just get it up in the air to right, and it will go," Gindl said.

Bouncing back and forth between Milwaukee and Triple-A Nashville this season, Gindl was most recently called up on Friday. He's joined left fielder Khris Davis, who hit two homers in a win on Friday, and second baseman Scooter Gennett, who had a homer and two RBIs in the series, in a group of rookies that has sparked some excitement for the Brewers.

"They're doing a great job," Roenicke said. "Somebody keeps coming through."

Other than a few scattered hits, the Brewers were relatively quiet at the plate until Yuniesky Betancourt led off the seventh with a pinch-hit single. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Estrada before scampering to third on a Gennett groundout. Betancourt scored when Jean Segura singled on the first pitch of the next at-bat.

Despite giving up a pair of singles, Brandon Kintzler delivered a scoreless eighth before Jim Henderson gave up a solo homer to Votto in the ninth, but still picked up his 21st save of the season.

Although the Brewers lost 6-3 on Saturday, wins Friday and Sunday gave them their first series victory in Cincinnati since September 2011. Milwaukee entered the series having lost 12 of its last 15 games at Great American Ball Park.

"I thought it was a great series for us," Roenicke said. "We were certainly in yesterday's ballgame, also. I think we're playing good baseball."

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