MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Brewers slugger Carlos Gomez struck out an off-speed pitch with a swing so hard that his helmet fell off his head. He angrily slammed the helmet with his bat before walking away.
Milwaukee's offense is struggling as it tries to keep pace in the National League playoff race. The Brewers managed just two hits in a 5-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night that ended a three-game win streak.
David Holmberg pitched six effective innings and Billy Hamilton had key a two-run triple for Cincinnati, which has won four of five. Todd Frazier had three hits and scored twice.
Milwaukee remained 1 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh for the second NL wild-card spot after the Pirates lost 6-4 to the Cubs.
Holmberg (1-1) allowed two hits in his first major league win, including Aramis Ramirez's fourth-inning homer.
"I can't explain it. He threw the ball well," Ramirez said about Holmberg. "What can I say?"
Holmberg's fastball tops out at about 89 mph, but he effectively changed speeds to frustrate a Brewers lineup stacked with strong right-handed hitters. Holmberg has yielded just one earned run in 12 2-3 innings over three September appearances.
The Brewers haven't scored more than four runs in a game since beating St. Louis 6-2 on Sept. 5.
"It's hard to say what it is that's going to take us to bust out and swing the bat well," manager Ron Roenicke said. "I know we're facing tough pitching so I'm not expecting big numbers every night but I expect guys to swing the bat."
BOUNCE BACK GAME
Cincinnati scratched out two runs in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk and sacrifice fly off Yovani Gallardo (8-10). The speedy Hamilton broke open a one-run game with his triple to the gap in right-center in the seventh.
The Brewers wasted an otherwise effective outing by Gallardo, who allowed four hits and two runs in six innings.
Gallardo had a 5.95 ERA in his previous four starts.
"Mechanics-wise, everything felt normal," Gallardo said. "You know I got a little bit out of whack there in the fourth inning ... was just rushing through my delivery there with those two walks, and you know I was just able to leave it at that."
Holmberg overcame an early bout of wildness after hitting two batters in the first, when the Brewers also had their best chance at a big inning.
An unusual double play with runners on first and second and nobody out helped bail out Cincinnati. Jonathan Lucroy's hard-hit grounder to shortstop Zack Cozart froze Gomez leading off second.
Cozart threw to second for a forceout before Cincinnati tracked down Gomez in a rundown. Holmberg then got Khris Davis to fly out to right to end the inning.
It was a solid performance for Holmberg in his audition for 2015 for the Reds, who are seven games under .500.
"I just believe this September is hugely important for David simply to have the opportunity to pitch and get more comfortable as we head into 2015," manager Bryan Price said. "He's taking advantage of his opportunities."
Reds: 1B Joey Votto rejoined the team this weekend in Milwaukee in an effort to return before the end of the season. Votto, who has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a left knee injury, worked out before Saturday's game.
Brewers: Right-handed hitter Ryan Braun was moved up to the No. 2 spot in the order against the lefty Holmberg. Roenicke also said he liked how Braun has looked since the outfielder got a day off to rest a nagging right thumb injury.
Reds: RHP Mike Leake (11-11) is scheduled to make his career-best 31st start on Sunday. He already has career highs of 149 strikeouts in 196 1-3 innings.
Brewers: RHP Matt Garza (7-8) is 1-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two starts this season against Cincinnati.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP