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MIL@CIN: Bruce crushes a three-run shot to deep right

CINCINNATI -- That Jay Bruce has done his part to help the Reds is the big understatement of the month. That the Reds were able to win a game while Bruce did much of the heavy lifting?

Well, that hasn't happened as often as they'd like. But a 7-3 Reds victory over the Brewers on Monday while Bruce went 3-for-4 and a double shy of the cycle was welcomed and sorely needed.

"Jay, he's unbelievable. I mean, that guy can do it all," said winning Reds starting pitcher Travis Wood.

It certainly seems like it. Bruce's three-run home run in a four-run Reds' fourth inning was the big moment of the game and added to his National League Player of the Month candidacy. With one day left in May, he's batting .346 with a National League best 12 homers, 32 RBIs and 23 runs scored. No Reds batter has hit that many in a month since September 1999, when Greg Vaughn tied the club record with 14 homers.

RED HOT
Most home runs in a month by a Reds player
No Player Month
14 Greg Vaughn September 1999
14 Frank Robinson August 1962
13 George Foster June 1979
13 Frank Robinson July 1961
13 Ted Kluszewski August 1954
12 Jay Bruce May 2011
12 Adam Dunn July 2008
12 Adam Dunn August 2001*
12 Ken Griffey Jr. June 2000
12 Eric Davis May 1987
12 George Foster July 1977
12 Lee May June 1971
12 Ted Kluszewski July 1955
* National League rookie record for any month

Bruce, who leads the NL with 16 homers overall, has accounted for six of his club's last seven long balls and eight of the last 10. He has 17 RBIs over his last nine games.

And for all of that, Cincinnati came in losers of 10 of the previous 12 games, including a just-completed 2-8 road trip.

"You can't time when you're hot," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Bruce. "When you're hot, you just be hot. He's swinging great, he's swinging excellent. His concentration level is great. His balance is excellent. And he's keeping his head still."

It was a good win for the third-place Reds to get against a Brewers team one spot ahead of them in the NL Central standings. Milwaukee came in winners of eight of its last nine games, but has issues on the road. Their road mark is now 8-18, including 0-4 at Great American Ball Park. A first-place Cardinals loss put the Reds four games out of first place and 1 ½ games behind the Brewers.

"When you get a chance to control your own destiny against a team that's ahead of you, it's nice, and we did a good job of it tonight," Bruce said.

It was Bruce who led off with a triple into the right-field corner in the second inning and then scored on Jonny Gomes' sacrifice fly. In the fourth inning with no outs, after Joey Votto's leadoff walk and Scott Rolen's single, Bruce connected on a 0-2 hanging curveball from Brewers lefty Chris Narveson and sent it into the right field seats for a 5-0 Reds lead.

"I'm just getting presented with opportunities, and I've been successful," Bruce said. "It's been a good month. I've been making better decisions. That's one of the big things. And with better decisions comes -- most of the time -- a lot of success.

"It's cliché, but it's the truth. If you swing at the pitches you want to swing at and don't swing at the pitches they're trying to get you to chase, you're going to have a lot easier time up there. A lot to contribute to this month is the people getting on base. I have a lot of good hitters in front of me, and that's always a plus, too."

Narveson regretted some decisions on his part during the fourth, his final inning of the game.

"Dumb pitch," Narveson said. "If you look at those three batters there between Rolen, Bruce and Gomes, back-to-back-to-back guys we had two strikes on every single one, and I left a pitch up to every single guy. If you execute it, you probably get an out. If you leave it up, they end up capitalizing on it. ... Jay Bruce is hot right now, and he ended up doing what he had to do."

Gomes followed Bruce with a double to the left-field corner and scored on Paul Janish's one-out single up the middle. With three-straight two-out hits in the sixth, Cincinnati added two more runs when pinch-hitter Fred Lewis hit a RBI single to center field that scored Ryan Hanigan. Janish came home when catcher Jonathan Lucroy committed an error while attempting to throw out Lewis.

Wood gave up three runs and seven hits over six innings with no walks and two strikeouts. All three runs scored in the fifth inning, including back-to-back homers by Carlos Gomez and pinch-hitter Josh Wilson. Ryan Braun added a two-out RBI double to right field that made it a 5-3 game. The Reds bullpen trio of Jose Arredondo, Nick Masset and Francisco Cordero -- in a non-save situation -- combined for three scoreless innings.

It's obviously been a tremendous month for Bruce, who finished April batting all of .237 and is now batting .294 with 43 RBIs overall. As far as May is concerned, it's not quite a formality that the 24-year-old wins NL Player of the Month honors. Before going on the bereavement list, the Mets' Jose Reyes was batting .364 with a .976 OPS, nine doubles, six triples and 11 steals.

Bruce has the power numbers that grab attention quicker, however.

"You don't want him to wake up or even think about it," Baker said. "Just be natural and keep doing what you're doing. We'll take it big time. It just shows his potential and what he can do. Just give us some more."

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