CINCINNATI -- The Milwaukee Brewers stopped short of declaring Friday night a breakout moment for their struggling offense. But after scoring three or fewer runs in eight consecutive games, they were content with bashing their way out of the slump.
The Brewers hit five home runs -- including two by Ryan Braun, who became just the second player in franchise history to reach the 30/30 plateau -- in a 6-3 victory over the Reds in the opener of a three-game series at homer haven Great American Ball Park.
The win reduced the Brewers' magic number to seven to clinch the National League Central title. The Cardinals won, 4-2, in 11 innings at Philadelphia.
"I don't know if you'd call it our game, but when we're hitting home runs and driving the ball, it's usually a good sign," Prince Fielder said. "I won't call it a turnaround. We're still in a good position. We've got a great shot to do great things."
Fielder started the scoring for Milwaukee with his 33rd home run in the second. It was the 41st home run allowed by Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who set a new single-season Reds record.
The Brewers hit four homers off Arroyo on Friday night, giving him 44 allowed this season, which is tied for fifth on the all-time list. While it's a dubious distinction for Arroyo, the roundtrippers were a welcome sight for Milwaukee.
"The home runs were the difference," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "We didn't string too many hits together. We knew coming in that [Arroyo] had given up some home runs. You never can think that your team is going to continue to do that. It was nice to get some early runs. We haven't been doing that."
The home run barrage backed Brewers starter Randy Wolf, who pitched seven strong innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits. Wolf (13-9) struck out seven and did not walk a batter. It was Wolf's 21st quality start.
John Axford pitched the ninth for his 43rd save, one shy of the franchise mark.
The Brewers had lost six of their previous eight games and dropped four games in the standings. But following Friday night's win, the mood in the clubhouse was indicative of a club on the verge of a division title.
Brewers players cheered a Phillies ninth-inning rally only to see the Cardinals win in 11 innings. For the first time in a few weeks, the Crew was having fun, largely due to its suddenly resurgent offense.
"We put together some good at-bats tonight," Braun said. "We've been a team over the years that, when we do hit home runs, it energizes us. We played with a whole lot more energy tonight."
The Reds grabbed the early lead when Joey Votto delivered an RBI single in the first inning. But the Brewers responded quickly against Arroyo.
"If you're going to get to Wolf, you have to get to him early, because he settles down and starts getting his breaking ball over," said Reds manager Dusty Baker.
Unfortunately for Baker, Wolf not only settled down, he also got some much-needed run support.
Fielder tied the score with his solo homer leading off the second. It took just two pitches from Arroyo in the third for the Brewers to grab the lead.
Following a walk to Nyjer Morgan, Mark Kotsay hit a two-run home run, just his third of the season, on a 3-1 pitch to put the Brewers ahead 3-1. On the next pitch, Braun made the score 4-1 with his 29th home run.
It was the sixth time this season the Brewers had collected back-to-back homers.
"Obviously, walking Nyjer cost me the two home runs back-to-back after that," Arroyo said. "A little bit of command, a little bit of missed location and then those guys hitting some pitches. It's kind of been the story for me most of the season. I haven't been able to lock anything down."
Wolf allowed three consecutive singles to load the bases in the eighth. Francisco Rodriguez relieved Wolf, and after allowing a two-run single to Votto, he got Jay Bruce to roll into an inning-ending double play.
George Kottaras added a solo home run in the seventh, his fifth of the season. Braun's solo homer in the eighth made him the first Brewers player since Tommy Harper in 1970 to collect 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season.
The Brewers rediscovered the moxie that helped them build as much as a 10 1/2 game lead in the NL Central.
"The beauty of getting the big lead is that we had a big cushion," Fielder said. "You can't just write your way in [to the playoffs]. You have to keep playing."
Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.