CINCINNATI — The National League's reigning MVP sure knows how to perform an encore.
Christian Yelich singled with the bases loaded and hit his major league-leading 30th homer Monday night, helping the Milwaukee Brewers rally for their sixth straight victory at Great American Ball Park, 8-6 over the Cincinnati Reds.
The victory — coupled with the Chicago Cubs’ 18-5 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates — gave Milwaukee a one-game lead in the NL Central.
Milwaukee sent 10 batters to the plate for five runs in the seventh inning, with Yelich contributing an RBI single. Yelich hit a two-run homer in the ninth that made him the first Brewer with 30 before the All-Star break. Prince Fielder hit 29 before the break in 2007.
Yelich knew he was one homer away from the mark. He hit No. 29 on June 21 and had only four hits and one RBI since.
"It's cool," Yelich said. "It's hard to put it out of your mind. You're constantly reminded about it by the fans and the media. It's nice to get it out of the way."
The homer came off a pitch that was above the strike zone and landed in the first row of seats in left field.
"It was one of those weird ones," Yelich said. "It wasn't the best pitch to swing at, but that's baseball. Sometimes, you do everything right and don't get rewarded. Sometimes, you do everything wrong and hit a home run."
Even though he's struggled lately, he had two important hits when the Brewers needed them.
"He's had a tremendous first half," manager Craig Counsell said. "I think he'll tell you he's been fighting himself a little bit, but he still came up with big hits tonight."
The Brewers have won 11 of 15 overall against their NL Central rival. This time, they overcame a pair of two-run homers by Eugenio Suarez, who has three in the last two games.
Trailing 3-1, Lorenzo Cain led off the seventh inning with a homer that was only the second hit off Tyler Mahle. Cain's opposite-field homer was only his eighth in 72 career homers.
David Hernandez (2-4) walked Yasmani Grandal with the bases loaded to force in a run that put Milwaukee up 4-3, and Yelich followed with a single.
Mahle gave up three hits overall, including Keston Hiura's homer in the fifth.
Mahle complained earlier this season that manager David Bell wasn't letting him work deeper into games. Bell let him start the seventh inning this time, and Mahle couldn't get an out.
"I blew it," Mahle said. "That's what I think sucks the most, when the manager has faith in you and you go out and blow it."
The Brewers got a career-high five-plus innings from Adrian Houser, who was making his fourth start after 14 relief appearances. He blanked the Reds on four hits over the first five innings, but Jesse Winker hit a solo shot and Suarez added a two-run homer as the Reds chased Houser to open the sixth.
Alex Claudio (2-2) retired the three batters he faced in the inning. Suarez connected again in the eighth off Josh Hader. Jeremy Jeffress allowed a run in the ninth while getting his first save.
The Reds won two games at Miller Park on June 20-21 that completed a six-game winning streak, their longest of the season. Since then, they've dropped six of eight, falling back into last place.
Remembering Tyler Skaggs
The Reds had a moment of silence pregame for Tyler Skaggs, the Angels pitcher who died Monday at the team's hotel in Texas.
"It's shocking," Counsell said. "It just rocks everybody's world."
From the infirmary
Brewers left-hander Gio Gonzalez threw in the bullpen for the first time since he went on the injured list on June 1 with a sore left arm.
Brewers right-hander Chase Anderson (4-2), who is 3-2 with a 4.40 ERA in 10 starts after opening the season in the bullpen, starts on Tuesday. He took an 11-7 loss to the Reds on June 21 at Miller Park, giving up six runs in five innings.
The Reds will counter with Tanner Roark (5-6), who is 1-0 in two starts against the Brewers this season, allowing four runs in 10⅓ innings while fanning 13.