MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ned Yost insists that he's not worried about his new closer. After watching his offense ease the pain of another blown save, Eric Gagne said he isn't stressing, either. Gagne was one strike away from shutting down the Reds in the ninth inning on Tuesday, then had to wait around to see his team rally in the 10th for a 3-2 win over Cincinnati at Miller Park. J.J. Hardy and Jason Kendall had three hits apiece for Milwaukee and Hardy scored a pair of runs including the game-winner, on Rickie Weeks' single to left field through a drawn-in infield.
"I want to go out there and not blow any saves, but we won the game -- so it's a lot easier to go to sleep at night," said Gagne, who is 1-for-3 in save chances so far. "The guys picked me up again." Starter Jeff Suppan worked seven strong innings, third baseman Bill Hall hit a go-ahead home run leading off the seventh and lefty reliever Brian Shouse came on to escape a bases-loaded Reds rally in the eighth as the Brewers built a 2-1 lead for Gagne. Gagne struck out Ryan Freel to open the ninth inning and retired Brewer-killer Javier Valentin on a grounder to first base, then worked into a two-strike count against Cincinnati leadoff man Corey Patterson. With a 2-and-2 count, Gagne's first thought was to throw a changeup, which is precisely the pitch Kendall called for. Instead, Gagne shook it off and threw a fastball, looking to strike out Patterson to appease the roaring crowd. Patterson deposited it just over the right-field fence into a party area added two years ago. "That's going to teach me to [go against] a guy who's got 25 years in the big leagues," Gagne said, slightly exaggerating Kendall's service time. "It's one of those things where you think you know everything in baseball, but you learn every day." Gagne is learning that the Brewers have the ability to bounce back. They did it on Opening Day in Chicago after Gagne let a 3-0 lead slip away, and they did it again Tuesday. Winning pitcher Salomon Torres (1-0) retired the heart of the Cincinnati order in the top of the 10th inning before Hardy sparked the decisive rally. Hardy hit an 0-and-2 single off former Brewers reliever David Weathers (0-1), who sent his old team down in order on six pitches in the bottom of the ninth but was not as sharp in the 10th. Pinch-hitter Joe Dillon followed with his first sacrifice bunt since 2005, and Kendall pushed Hardy to third with a single. Weeks hit the very next pitch between the shortstop and third baseman to win the game. Afterwards, he borrowed Kendall's favorite phrase. "See the ball, hit the ball," Weeks said with a smile, drawing a groan from the assembled media. The Brewers went 4-for-5 with runners in scoring position, while the Reds went 1-for-6. With four straight wins and a 6-1 record, the Brewers are off to the best start of any National League club.
What does their ability to recover from Gagne's early-season hiccups say about the team?
"That we have a lot of heart," Hardy said. "That we're not going to give up. And also, I think, that we have a good team. We have all the tools we need to win ballgames."
To win Tuesday, they had to get past Reds phenom Johnny Cueto, who "came as advertised," according to Yost. Cueto struck out eight and was nasty in the early innings, retiring the first six hitters he faced -- including three via strikeouts in the second inning.
Hardy singled leading off the third, moved into scoring position on the first of Suppan's two sacrifice bunts and scored on the first of Kendall's three singles for a 1-0 lead.
The Reds tied it in the top of the seventh, when Weeks made a fabulous diving stop of a Joey Votto grounder but threw the baseball over first baseman Prince Fielder's head. Votto eventually scored on a Patterson single that just eluded Weeks' diving stab.
Hall answered quickly when he led off the bottom of the inning, driving a Cueto pitch to left field for a 2-1 Brewers lead. Hall is a .313 (75-for-240) hitter lifetime against the Reds, and his 16 homers and 45 RBIs are by far his most against any opponent since he entered the Majors in 2002.
Still, Cueto impressed.
"We've heard about this kid for the last year or two," Yost said. "It wasn't like he just popped up on the radar. Our scouts have watched him throw, and we've heard how good this guy was for the last year or two. Very polished. Throws the ball very hard and commands it.
"The kid's a top-notch prospect. He's the real deal. He's got a chance to be really good."
Suppan, 11 years Cueto's senior, was just as good. He shut out the Reds on four hits through six innings before allowing a run in the sixth after a couple of singles barely eluded Brewers second baseman Weeks.
In seven innings, Suppan surrendered a run on six hits with one strikeout, and lowered his ERA to 2.02. He would have improved to 2-0 -- and 6-2 in April since joining the Brewers -- had Gagne been able to record one more out.
Yost said he wasn't worried about his new closer.
"It happens. Nobody's perfect," Yost said. "Their kid [Cueto] threw a great ballgame tonight, he got a ball up to Billy with two strikes. I don't think [the Reds] have any concerns with him, either.
"It's just part of the game. The human factor plays into it. [Gagne] recovered from it, got us through that inning and we battled back and won the game."
|"It's one of those things where you think you know everything in baseball, but you learn every day."|
|-- Eric Gagne, on shaking off catcher Jason Kendall|
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.