MILWAUKEE — Rickie Weeks hit a three-run homer and the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen held on to beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 on Thursday night to open an important four-game series for both clubs before the All-Star break.
Weeks hit a line-drive shot off Homer Bailey (3-4) as the Brewers built a 5-2 lead in the fifth.
However, LaTroy Hawkins gave up a run in the eighth and John Axford got into serious trouble in the ninth, allowing a leadoff home run to Ramon Hernandez and putting runners on the corners with two outs before getting Brandon Phillips to ground out.
Cincinnati's highly touted prospect Zack Cozart singled, scored his first run and made a defensive play to save another, but the Reds lost for the fifth time in seven tries.
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Cozart, a shortstop, batted .310 with seven homers, 32 RBI and nine steals in 77 games with Triple-A Louisville.
"We tried to keep him there as long as we could to get ready, and you don't really know if a guy's ready until he gets here for an extended period of time," Reds Manager Dusty Baker said. "He's been playing well down there.
"We like Cozart. He brings some speed, some power, we haven't seen him much other than spring training and following his numbers, but big time we like what we saw. Hopefully, he can give us a boost."
Baker said Cozart will get the majority of the work at short over Edgar Renteria and in place of Paul Janish, who was sent down to Louisville after hitting .227 with no homers in 68 games.
■ The Reds also sent right-hander Edinson Volquez down to Louisville to work on his lack of command. Volquez continues to struggle with a 5-4 record, a 5.93 ERA and 55 walks this season, second highest in the NL.
"That's really the only issue — command and pace of the game, too, which goes back to command, trying to be deliberate and focus every pitch," Baker said. "He certainly has the stuff. We need him to get himself back together. He's getting there."
Reliever Carlos Fisher took Volquez's place to help bridge a gap in the bullpen.
The most likely candidate to replace Volquez in the rotation Sunday is left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2003 and made two All-Star games before struggling with Florida, Detroit and Arizona.
Willis last pitched in the majors last July and signed with the Reds in the off-season. He's 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts for Louisville.
Wednesday's late game
Reds 9, Cardinals 8 (13): Bronson Arroyo and the bullpen squandered an 8-0 lead, and Cincinnati's offense stalled, too, before finally outlasting host St. Louis in extra innings. Pinch hitter Ramon Hernandez, the last regular on the bench, doubled in the go-ahead run.
Chris Heisey, Jay Bruce, Fred Lewis and Scott Rolen homered for the Reds, who led 8-0 in the fifth but managed only three hits during the next seven innings. Jon Jay homered in the ninth off Francisco Cordero to force extra innings, only the third blown save in 20 chances for the Reds closer.
The game lasted 4 hours, 11 minutes, the Cardinals' longest of the season.