MILWAUKEE -- Mark Kotsay capped Milwaukee's first rally with a big home run. His encore was even more dramatic.
Kotsay hit a two-out, two-run single in the ninth off Reds closer Francisco Cordero after he previously homered in the sixth and the Brewers rallied twice to beat Cincinnati 8-7 on Friday night for their third straight victory.
"I'm looking for a fastball, but he's got a great split," Kotsay said. "I know he has a good fastball, and at that point, he could have thrown it, could have thrown a split. I was just trying to battle and stay in the at-bat and not chase anything out of the zone."
Kotsay is in the lineup while Ryan Braun recovers from a strained left hamstring and got a second chance, too, after going from hero to zero.
He homered to start the sixth, giving Milwaukee a 5-4 lead, but bumbled a play in left field in the seventh and the Reds went on to score three times to take a 7-5 lead.
"I had a chance to redeem myself," Kotsay said.
Did he ever.
In the ninth, Cordero began the inning by walking George Kottaras before Nyjer Morgan hit a one-out triple. Corey Hart hit a chopper in the draw-in infield and Zack Cozart, the rookie shortstop, threw out Morgan at the plate after Morgan collided hard with catcher Ryan Hanigan.
Cordero walked Prince Fielder to bring up Casey McGehee, who grounded to third, reaching on an infield hit. Fielder was replaced with the speedy Carlos Gomez at second and with the bases loaded, Kotsay hit a hard single to right.
It appeared a play at the plate was coming and Gomez slid home, but Jay Bruce's throw was well over Hanigan's head and the celebration was on.
"We have good character here," said Kotsay, who improved to 6 for 13 against Cordero. "We talk about it a lot -- we play the game to the final out. That's what the manager expects, what the fans expect, and that's what we're here to do. I don't know if every club has that demeanor. We've showed our character a few times this year. Every team wants to have that ability, but I think this club has had it in the fast and we continue the tradition."
It was Cincinnati's sixth loss in the last eight games and Cordero blew his second straight save after failing on Wednesday in St. Louis.
"I think I threw him a good pitch, but he got the best part of it," Cordero said. "I don't know if I made a mistake or if he just hit a good pitch."
The win gives Milwaukee sole possession of first place in the NL Central, a game ahead of St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The Reds are four games back and season worst two games under .500 for the first time in more than a year.
"It's a devastating loss," Cordero said. "We're chasing the Brewers and the Pirates and St. Louis. We could've been a game closer, but now we're a game further back."
Marco Estrada (2-5) earned the win by pitching the ninth, but the rest of Milwaukee's bullpen struggled.
"I knew that if I went out there and gave them a clean inning, that we would come back," Estrada said. "That's how good our offense is."
Brandon Phillips followed with a go-ahead sacrifice fly and Bruce hit his 20th homer of the year to give the Reds a 7-5 lead.
Cincinnati earlier built a 2-0 lead on Votto's 13th homer of the season and Bruce's RBI single in the first. Mat Gamel booted Scott Rolen's grounder to third, allowing two more runs to score in the third to make it 4-0.
Rickie Weeks, a first-time All-Star, hit an inside-the-park homer when his deep fly ball in the bottom of the third caromed oddly off the angled wall in right-center field. He scored without a throw home for his 17th homer of the season and second in as many days to cut it to 4-1.
Milwaukee added three runs in the fifth off a double by Weeks, a single by Morgan and a sacrifice fly by Fielder tied it before Kotsay drove in three of Milwaukee's final four runs including his game-ending hit.
"I wanted that opportunity," Kotsay said. "I knew it could get around to me. Not that it was going to turn out great -- I still could have been the goat, you know? But fortunately the line drive goes somewhere that they're not, and we win."
Brewers starter Zack Greinke struck out 10 and scored a run. ... Weeks' inside-the-park homer was the second of his career. ... The last time the Reds were two games under .500 was April 27, 2010. ... The Brewers have hit 103 homers so far this season, the sixth straight year they'll have at least 100 homers by the All-Star break. ... Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who played college football at Wisconsin, took batting practice before the game and hit seven home runs.