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MIL@CIN: Valdez lines an RBI single to center field

CINCINNATI -- For 74 consecutive games, the Reds had watched at least one ball leave Great American Ball Park.

That streak, which was the longest active streak in the Majors dating back to July 29, 2011, came to an end on Sunday afternoon.

But just because there weren't any fireworks didn't mean the series finale between the first-place Reds and the Brewers lacked excitement, as Cincinnati grinded out a 2-1 win to complete the three-game sweep of its National League Central rivals.

"That was just good old-fashioned baseball right there," said Reds manager Dusty Baker.

It took until the final batter of the afternoon to reach the climax of the game. With two outs and a runner on second, the recently unhittable arm of Aroldis Chapman faced the never-quiet bat of Ryan Braun.

Chapman had walked Carlos Gomez one at-bat prior and even had him picked off on what would have been the final out of the game. But the speedster scrambled into second base, and the 2011 NL MVP stood at the plate with an 0-2 count.

"Of all the guys in the league, you don't want to see Braun up there," Baker said. "You just try to think as positive as you can and try to send Chapman some positive thoughts, because when [Braun] is up there, bad things can happen to your team. You just think positive, because this guy can hit."

Braun didn't hit this time. After consecutive 98- and 100-mph fastballs were fouled off, Chapman finished off the five-time All-Star with a 90-mph slider.

The Brewers only managed four total runs in the three games in Cincinnati, and left 11 runners on base in Sunday's game.

"I had opportunities -- we had plenty of hits, guys on base," Braun said. "[Reds starter Johnny Cueto] made good pitches, but we just didn't come through when we had men on base."

Cueto struck out Braun twice earlier in the contest for two of his season-high-tying nine strikeouts.

The Reds ace, who improved to 12-5 with a 2.23 ERA this season, didn't look as if he would flourish like his normal self out of the gate.

Cueto had to battle through a 30-pitch first inning that eventually led to a two-out, bases-loaded jam. But as he's managed to do so many times this season, Cueto came through with a clutch strikeout, this time against Rickie Weeks to escape unscathed.

"The first inning was a lot of pitches, and I was trying to throw as [few] as possible as I could," Cueto said through his translator. "I felt really aggressive through every single pitch I threw today. I always want to throw at least seven or eight innings, and thank God I did it today."

It was the 13th time in 20 starts that Cueto has lasted at least seven innings this season, and the 11th time he has allowed one earned run or less in a start.

Baker, who has spoken highly of Cueto's work ethic all season, said the staff was concerned with Cueto's stamina after the extended first inning, especially on a warm afternoon game.

But the righty "battled and battled," and Baker said Cueto's daily runs in the outfield and stadium sprints have paid off.

"If you want to go deep in games and not tire and not lose your arm slot and not lose velocity, then being in shape and working out is the key," Baker said. "That's what he's done the last couple years, big time. You see him running all batting practice and see him running the stairs. His body doesn't show it all the time, but this guy is in great, great shape."

Cueto would need every ounce of his strength, as he was forced to pitch himself out of several jams.

He surrendered his lone run of the afternoon in the third inning, as Aramis Ramirez drove a liner to right, scoring Norichika Aoki, who doubled to lead off the inning. That snapped a string of 23 straight scoreless innings at Great American Ball Park for Cueto -- the second longest streak in the park's history.

The Reds did just enough to support Cueto's strong outing, answering the Brewers' third-inning run with two of their own, as yet another daily hero emerged from the lineup.

This time, it came in the form of utility man Wilson Valdez, who made just his 18th start of the season.

Valdez contributed to both Reds runs, notching two hits from the two-hole, including an RBI single to score Chris Heisey.

He sped his way to third base when Brewers starter Mike Fiers made an errant throw on a pickoff attempt, and scored on Brandon Phillips' sacrifice fly to center.

"Playing today, I was trying to help the team the most I can," Valdez said. "That's what you're looking for. You look for the guys to get on base for the big guys. Me and Chris were able to get on base and get in scoring position."

The Reds began and ended their 10-game homestand with sweeps of division rivals, posting an 8-2 record.

Cincinnati is a season-high 15 games above .500, has won 11 of its last 13 games and will travel to Houston and Colorado before returning home at the end of July.

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