Reds 11, Brewers 5

Well, that sure worked out nicely.

Manager Jerry Narron’s moves to get Josh Hamilton into the lineup paid off right away Tuesday night. Ryan Freel and Hamilton started a seventh-inning rally that swept the Cincinnati Reds to an 11-5 victory and a two-game split with the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I absolutely love what he did with the lineup, putting Hamilton second,” said Freel, who had four hits and scored three times. “This guy is going to be what we need in the lineup.”

Javier Valentin completed the five-run rally with a bases-loaded single off Greg Aquino, who couldn’t preserve a 5-4 lead in the decisive inning. But it was the two players at the top of the order who made it possible.

Freel moved to third base on Tuesday so Hamilton could get into the starting lineup in center field. Freel got the go-ahead rally started with a single off Carlos Villaneuva. Hamilton followed with a single off left-hander Brian Shouse (1-1), who then struck out Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr.

Aquino got into the game but couldn’t get that elusive, final out.

“It wasn’t good,” said Aquino, who threw only nine strikes out of 22 pitches. “My fastball was staying in the middle and my breaking ball was flat today. It happens sometimes.”

Brandon Phillips singled to tie it, and Scott Hatteberg was walked intentionally after a wild pitch advanced the runners. A rattled Aquino then walked Alex Gonzalez on four pitches – the last of which flew to the backstop – to force in the tiebreaking run.

Valentin’s single drove in two more, and center fielder Bill Hall bobbled the ball on the play, allowing another run to score.

Manager Ned Yost was fuming afterward.

“With a club like that, you’ve got to be very careful. You can’t make mistake after mistake after mistake,” said Yost, repeatedly pounding his fist into his hand for emphasis. “We’ve been throwing too many pitches over the flat part of the plate.”

Griffey added his second RBI double of the game in the eighth inning, then came around on Phillips’ triple. Left-hander Mike Stanton (1-0) pitched two hitless innings to get the win.

Narron took a gamble by moving Freel – who has been working almost exclusively in the outfield – to third base for the first time since July 8. Freel and Hamilton made it work out.

“I told him during batting practice: C’mon, baby, it’s 1-2, me and you tonight,” Hamilton said. “Let’s tear it up.”

They did. And now, Narron has to figure out how to let them do it again.

“It’s a nice problem to have,” Narron said. “I’ve got to figure out a way to get three left-handed-hitting outfielders (Hamilton, Griffey and Dunn) out there as much as possible, and have Freel hit at the top of the lineup.”

Despite the loss, the Brewers headed for home with a breakthrough. They completed their first winning road trip of more than three games since August 2005, going 4-3 in Florida, St. Louis and Cincinnati. Last year, Milwaukee had the NL’s second-worst road record at 27-54.

Hall had three hits for Milwaukee, and right-hander Dave Bush pitched five innings and doubled home a pair of runs to put himself in position for the victory. A bullpen that has been one of the NL’s best so far let it get away.

The one big inning helped the Reds overcome a sloppy start by right-hander Matt Belisle.

He had an embarrassing moment while intentionally walking Craig Counsell in the second inning to bring up Bush with two outs. Belisle’s first toss to Valentin sailed over the head of the catcher’s head for a wild pitch.

After Belisle completed the intentional walk to Counsell, he gave up a two-run double to Bush on a hanging 1-2 pitch, putting Milwaukee up 3-2.

Although the Brewers have struggled to get clutch hits so far this season, they’ve gotten by with pitching. Their starters have gone at least five innings in each of their 13 games, the second-longest streak to open the season in club history. The 1971 team did it in the first 17 games.

Notes:@ The Brewers have doubled in each of their first 13 games, the third-longest streak to open a season in franchise history. The 1994 team doubled in each of the first 18 games, setting the record. … C Johnny Estrada had a run-scoring double for the Brewers. He has hit safely in the last seven games – with a total of seven hits. … Gonzalez came off the bereavement list and started. He left the team last Thursday, going to Venezuela to be will his ailing infant son. … INF Enrique Cruz, who filled in while Gonzalez was gone, was designated for assignment.