"I got my butt kicked, plain and simple," said Bush (11-10), who was tagged with eight runs in one official inning of work. "It was not a very good time for a bad start."
Prince Fielder led off the fifth inning with his 42nd home run, a 446-foot solo shot off Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (8-14), but Arroyo by that time had a huge margin to work with. Pitching with a 10-0 lead after three innings, the right-hander went 7 2/3 innings and limited the Brewers to three runs on five hits.
Mike Rivera, a September callup, also hit a solo homer in a losing cause.
Bush did not have much defensive help in the first inning, when the Reds sent 10 men to the plate and scored six runs. Ken Griffey Jr. smoked a ground ball at second baseman Rickie Weeks that could have been a double-play ball, but instead went for an RBI single. Brandon Phillips followed with a soft chopper to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who shoveled the baseball -- late -- to second base instead of going to first base for the out. And later in the inning, catcher Johnny Estrada botched a run-down after catching Adam Dunn off second base.
"Bush had a little help with his outing," said manager Ned Yost, who was ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Winters for arguing balls and strikes in the third inning.
Bush refused to lay blame on the defense, but said of his night in general, "It was a day where certainly not a whole lot went my way. I got my butt kicked. That was pretty easy to see."
The top three hitters in Cincinnati's lineup combined for nine hits and six RBIs, but as Yost described it, his team's troubles actually started back in the top of the first inning. All because of a pesky mosquito back in rain-soaked Milwaukee.
With Gabe Gross at second base on a double, NL Rookie of the Year candidate Ryan Braun at the plate and NL MVP candidate Fielder on deck, third-base coach Nick Leyva signaled for Gross to steal. Braun struck out and Gross was thrown out at third to end the inning.
"I had a mosquito bite in a certain spot, and I was itching it, and Nick thought I put the steal on in the first inning," Yost said. "Gabe takes off thinking, 'What's going on here?' That was an omen to begin with. ... I should have known it was a preview of what was to come in the first inning."
The manager was asked several times if he was being serious. He apparently was.
Said Gross: "I thought it was kind of a weird time. But he put it on and I took off. If [Arroyo] bounces a curveball, we look like geniuses."
After he was charged with six runs in the first inning, Bush (11-10) and the Brewers got a bad break in the second when right fielder Gross appeared to make a spectacular diving catch. He rolled over with the ball firmly in his glove, but before he could pull it out of his glove, the baseball fell to the outfield grass. By rule, it was an Alex Gonzalez double, and Griffey followed with a two-run home run that knocked Bush out of the game.
"If that's the rule, that's the rule," Gross said. "[The umpire] said I had to make an attempt to show it at some point. I had no clue I caught it until it fell out of my glove. If I had known I caught it, I would have had no problem. I was still looking for it on the ground."
Griffey scored twice and drove in three runs in the first two innings, and the home run was his 30th this season and the 593rd of his career.
The one-plus inning stint was Bush's shortest start since he pitched two innings for Toronto at Boston in April 2005 and marked the first time in 27 starts this season that he was unable to pitch into the fifth inning. Over his previous 15 outings, he was 8-1 with a 4.01 ERA.
"He didn't pitch great by any stretch of the imagination," Yost said. "But he didn't pitch as bad as the line score shows."
Matt Wise escaped further damage in the second inning and Chris Capuano struck out the first Reds batter he faced in the third. But Reds rookie Joey Votto followed by drawing a walk that raised the ire of Yost, who was ejected from the dugout. It was Yost's third ejection this season.
The silver lining that no uniformed Brewers player wanted to discuss was that the Cubs lost in Pittsburgh, leaving those two teams tied atop the division at 71-69. The Cardinals played later Friday night in Arizona, and with a win would have taken a percentage-points lead in the division.
"They're all tough at this point," Gross said of the loss. "But at the same time, the sun is going to come up tomorrow."