Zack Greinke at home had been a reliable victory for the Milwaukee Brewers. The ace did his part again on Wednesday, but the lineup let him down this time.
Greinke pitched eight dominant innings during an impressive duel with Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto. But closer John Axford gave up two runs in the ninth and a last-ditch rally fell short in a 2-1 loss to the Reds.
Milwaukee dropped to 18-1 in home starts by Greinke.
"I knew it was going to be tough," Greinke said. "Cueto, he's probably the most underappreciated pitcher, since he's been healthy last year. His numbers are pretty insane. I don't think I've heard anyone talking about him being one of the better pitchers in the league. Maybe it's time to start that."
Drew Stubbs singled off Axford (0-2) with two outs, and Joey Votto lined a ball over the glove of second baseman Rickie Weeks to score Stubbs from first.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he didn't have a clear view of the play as it developed, but he wasn't happy with the result.
"I don't think a guy should be able to score from first base," Roenicke said.
Brandon Phillips then hit a bloop single, driving in Votto for a 2-0 lead.
"I made a good pitch to Votto, but he put a better swing on it, got his hands in there and it was literally like an inch away from Rickie catching it," Axford said. "The ball after that, it was just kind of, throw the bat out there and hope you make contact and it dropped in. It's just the way baseball goes sometimes."
Ryan Braun connected against Sean Marshall in the bottom of the ninth, trimming the Reds' lead to one with his 10th homer. Marshall allowed a pair of two-out singles to Jonathan Lucroy and Norichika Aoki and was replaced by Logan Ondrusek, who walked George Kottaras to load the bases.
Ondrusek got Travis Ishikawa to pop out, earning his first save and completing the 1,500th major league victory for Reds manager Dusty Baker.
The Reds won two of three against the struggling Brewers.
Cincinnati's ninth-inning offense came after a pair of impressive performances by Greinke and Cueto.
Greinke allowed two hits and had a season-high 11 strikeouts for his 15th career double-digit strikeout game.
Coming into Wednesday's game, Greinke was 13-0 in 18 starts with the Brewers at Miller Park — making him the sixth player since 1900 to win each of his first 13 home decisions with a team.
Cueto pitched seven innings before Aroldis Chapman (3-0) came in for the eighth. Cueto gave up five hits, struck out five and walked one.
Cueto came into Wednesday's game on an early hot streak, having given up only six earned runs in six outings this year. He was coming off of a complete-game victory at Pittsburgh.
Cueto got out of trouble after the Brewers loaded the bases with two out in the third on a single by Nyjer Morgan, a walk to Weeks and an infield hit by Braun. Aramis Ramirez grounded out to end the inning.
After retiring the first 10 batters he faced, Greinke allowed a double to Stubbs in the fourth. Votto popped out and Stubbs stole third, but Greinke struck out Phillips to end the inning.
Stubbs' double was the only hit for the Reds in the first six innings.
NOTES: Braun was in the lineup despite aggravating a nagging Achilles injury Tuesday night. ... Both teams are off Thursday. Milwaukee LHP Randy Wolf (2-3, 6.68 ERA) faces Chicago Cubs RHP Matt Garza (2-1, 2.67) at Miller Park on Friday, while Cincinnati RHP Mike Leake (0-4, 5.97) faces Washington LHP Gio Gonzalez (3-1, 1.72) in Cincinnati on Friday. ... Wednesday's attendance was 27,090.