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CIN@MIL: Lucroy crushes a mammoth walk-off home run

MILWAUKEE -- Jonathan Lucroy was well aware of his numbers against flame-throwing Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman before he dug into the batter's box Friday night.

"Yeah, I know," Lucroy said with a smile. "Oh-for-five, five strikeouts. I know."

Make it 1-for-6 after Lucroy ended a seven-pitch battle against Chapman with a walk-off home run. Lucroy's two-run blast to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Brewers a 7-6 win over Chapman's Reds at Miller Park.

It was Lucroy's 17th home run this season, the first walk-off home run of his career, and the first step in evening the score against a pitcher who had long handled him.

"You don't remember? I was his first [batter] in the big leagues," Lucroy said, referring to Chapman's Aug. 31, 2010, Major League debut in Cincinnati. "He was throwing 105 [mph], all excited. Yeah, that wasn't cool."

It was a more subdued Chapman on Friday, pitching for the fifth time in six days and topping out at "only" 99 mph, instead of the 101-102 mph he was throwing Thursday. Along the way to sealing the Reds' 2-1, series-opening win, Chapman had struck out Lucroy swinging on a 101-mph fastball.

It was all fastballs again Friday, at least for the first six pitches of the decisive at-bat. After looking at Ball 1, Lucroy fouled off five consecutive pitches, including three in a row at 99 mph with two strikes. The seventh pitch was an 88-mph slider on the inside half of the plate, and Lucroy sent it to the seats.

Even with two strikes, Lucroy told himself to stay aggressive.

"You always want to be aggressive on the fastball, because if he throws an offspeed pitch, your bat's going to get sped up to it," Lucroy said. "That's what he did. He did me a favor, really, because I was fighting that fastball off inside. I'm sure that will be the last time that happens if I face him again."

Injuries and Ryan Braun's suspension have thrust Lucroy into the heart of the Brewers' lineup, and he has responded with a team-best 64 RBIs, including 60 as a catcher, tying the Rockies' Wilin Rosario for the most RBIs in the Majors from that position.

Including his three hits Friday, Lucroy is batting .324 over his past 72 games and has boosted his batting average from .208 to its current .286.

"Jonathan Lucroy has really come on as probably one of the most improved players in the league," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He was all over Chapman that inning because he was fouling off some tough pitches, and [Chapman] hung a slider to him and he didn't miss it."

Chapman had been 6-for-6 in previous save opportunities against the Brewers, and had allowed only one run in 21 innings against Milwaukee overall. Brewers batters were 5-for-65 (.077) against him with four walks and 34 strikeouts before Jean Segura led off Friday's ninth inning by hustling for an infield single and Lucroy followed with the winning home run.

"What a great at-bat," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said, "and a great at-bat by [Segura] to get on base. You don't expect to win when [Chapman] is coming into the ballgame."

It was the Brewers' third comeback of the game. They trailed, 2-0, after the first inning; led, 4-2, after the fourth; trailed again, 5-4, after the fifth; tied the game in the sixth inning on Segura's single; and then fell behind in the seventh on Reds third baseman Todd Frazier's fourth RBI of the night, a go-ahead single.

Frazier and Reds left fielder Chris Heisey each homered, and drove in all six of Cincinnati's runs. But the Brewers had answers.

"I don't think there's any quit in this team," Brewers starter Tom Gorzelanny said. "Everybody knows what's going on, and we know where we stand in the standings, but this season is not lost. There is a lot to work for, and every single person in this clubhouse is doing it."

Gorzelanny surrendered six hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings for his poorest outing since joining the Brewers' rotation. He found trouble from the start, allowing two walks and an infield single before Frazier's two-out, two-run single in the first inning. Gorzelanny threw 37 of his 87 pitches in that opening frame.

"It turned out to be one of those days we call a 'battle day,' where you fight yourself to make pitches and try to make outs," Gorzelanny said. "Even if it takes 10 pitches, you try to make an out. Obviously, they took advantage of that."

So it turned into a "battle day" for the Brewers' offense. They hit their way back into the game against Reds starter Mike Leake, who allowed four runs and nine hits in five innings.

Juan Francisco hit a solo home run in the second inning, his 13th homer in 58 games as a Brewer, and Lucroy and Khris Davis delivered RBI hits in a three-run third. Davis' two-run double gave the Brewers their first lead.

"We had a rough time [pitching] the ball, so it just feels good to get a win hitting-wise," Lucroy said.

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