MILWAUKEE -- There was a time early in Kyle Lohse's career that the complete games came relatively easily. He logged his first in his second Major League season, and had four complete games -- three of them shutouts -- in his first three years.
"It was all or nothing," Lohse said. "Back then, I just threw it as hard as I could for however many pitches they'd let me go. It was either 100 pitches in four-plus [innings], or, if my stuff was on, I could rack up a couple of strikeouts and quick innings. I didn't really pitch back then."
Now, a major arm surgery and some years and teams later, he pitches. On Friday, Lohse pitched as well as he has all season with 39,665 fans in the stands at Miller Park, working all nine innings of the Brewers' 5-1 win over the Reds to open the season's final homestand.
Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez matched his career high with five RBIs on a trio of well-placed singles, and Lohse did the rest, allowing four early singles before retiring 24 of the final 25 hitters he faced. He walked a batter and struck out five.
It was the ninth complete game of his career, but only his second since April 2009.
"I feel like lately in my career I could have a couple more," Lohse said. "A couple of those games you have a low pitch count, but you've got the lead and they take you out just to kind of save you or whatever. I don't know, I guess they think I'm getting old."
He's 34. Do the complete games mean more at this stage of his career?
"Yeah, definitely," Lohse said. "You know, the shutouts are awesome when things are going great, but when you give up a run early -- I was aware of how many guys I got out in a row there. I knew things were going good and I hadn't pitched out of the stretch since the second inning."
In that second inning, with the Brewers already leading, 2-0, the Reds began with three successive singles, the last ticking off shortstop Jean Segura's glove, before Cincinnati catcher Devin Mesoraco drove in a run with a fielder's choice groundout.
From there, Lohse shifted to cruise control against a Reds offense that entered the night second in the National League in on-base percentage and third in runs scored. After escaping more damage in the second inning, he worked six consecutive 1-2-3 innings from the third through the eighth. He needed only five pitches for the seventh inning.
Lohse was one out away from making it 24 outs in a row to end the game when Jay Bruce took a full-count slider low and away for a walk.
"It was a really good pitch," Lohse said of that slider to Bruce. "I wanted it. I don't think it was a strike. I put it out there thinking it would come back a little bit more over the plate."
Lohse inducted a Ryan Ludwick groundout to end the Brewers' third complete-game performance this season. Wily Peralta pitched the others, on July 9 against Cincinnati and Aug. 11 at Seattle.
"[Lohse] even got better, probably, the later we got," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
For Lohse, it was his first win in September, and his best start since limiting the Reds to one earned run in seven innings of a tough-luck, 2-1 loss on Aug. 15.
For Gomez, it was only his third multi-RBI game since the All-Star break, compared to 12 in the first half.
Some luck was on the Brewers' side from the first inning, when Reds left fielder Ludwick appeared to lose Jonathan Lucroy's fly ball in the lights. It went for a double, and Gomez cashed in two batters later by flaring an opposite-field single to shallow right for a 2-0 Brewers lead.
"Boy, that's one of the cheapest hits I've ever seen," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It looks like a single and two RBIs in the scorer's sheet."
Gomez dropped a soft RBI single in front of Ludwick in the third inning to make it 3-1, and another soft two-run single in front of center fielder Shin-Soo Choo in the seventh to open a 5-1 Brewers advantage. The five RBIs matched his output from July 12, 2009, when Gomez played for the Twins against the White Sox.
"We got a few breaks today," Roenicke said. "We don't get many, and we got a few of them, and then we got some runs because of it, which doesn't usually happen."
For the Reds, it was their seventh loss in the last 11 Cincinnati-Milwaukee matchups after winning five of the first six.
"You have to look at it as your playoff situation," Lohse said. "These guys [the Reds], they're more than likely going to be in the playoffs. You're not going to knock them out or anything. But to be able to go out there and pitch well against a playoff-caliber team, it makes you feel good. That lineup can swing it quite a bit. I just went out here and did what I could, and it was fun."