CINCINNATI -- It was difficult to tell that the Marco Estrada who pitched Tuesday night had not been on a Major League mound in more than a month.
Returning to the rotation after a stint on the disabled list for a quadriceps strain, Estrada had his career-best 10th strikeout by the end of the fifth inning and struck out two more batters in an otherwise troublesome sixth, a performance that marked bright spot in the Brewers' 4-3 loss to the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Estrada's 12 strikeouts tied Zack Greinke's June 6 gem against the Cubs for the most by a Brewers pitcher this season.
"I was locating the fastball, that's what it was, and I was able to go off of that," Estrada said. "I don't think they were expecting fastballs when I was ahead. I'm pretty sure they were sitting offspeed, and I was able to throw a 90-mph fastball by a lot of guys."
He was aided by a pair of acrobatic catches by outfielders Norichika Aoki and Nyjer Morgan in the third inning, but burned by a pair of misplaced curveballs in the sixth.
That inning began with Drew Stubbs' strikeout before Joey Votto, who'd struck out in his first two at-bats, hammered a breaking ball off the left-field wall for a double. Brandon Phillips singled up the middle before Estrada misplaced another curveball to Jay Bruce, who hit a three-run home run to right-center field.
"It was a good pitch to hit," Estrada said. "It was a bad curveball. I really think if I would have got it where I wanted to, I could have had a ground ball and got myself out of that inning."
The Brewers took Estrada off the hook for a loss by scoring three runs in the eighth inning. Stubbs won the game for Cincinnati with a solo home run.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke counted Estrada's outing as a success, that sixth inning notwithstanding.
"Really good," Roenicke said. "Good command, great change of speeds. Threw some great curveballs. He just had those two batters where he had mistakes, and they're the wrong guys to make mistakes to."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.