MILWAUKEE -- The last time the Milwaukee Brewers finished with a winning record they were still in the American League.
Rick Helling allowed three hits over six innings and the Brewers climbed above .500 for the first time in four months with a 6-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
Helling struck out a season-high eight and Milwaukee moved over the break-even mark for the first time since being 24-23 on May 27. It is the most victories for the Brewers (79-78) since 1996 when they went 80-82. The Brewers, who have five games left, have not had a winning season since 1992, when they were 92-70. They moved to the National League in 1998.
The Brewers reached .500 six times since Aug. 5, but could never get the next win.
"We're over the hump for tonight," manager Ned Yost said, adding the team has to stay focused on winning. "You never want to get there (.500) and keep falling back like we did. Again, we're over .500 tonight. We got to make sure we stay over .500 again tomorrow night."
Helling (3-1) said he knew the game was important.
"I was hoping to go out there and give us a chance to win," he said. "We did really pretty much all facets of the game well tonight. We pitched well, we scored enough runs and played good defense."
Helling, who played for three minor league teams in 2004 and began this season with Triple-A Nashville, made his second start and third appearance against the Reds this season.
The 34-year-old right-hander, whose contract was purchased from Nashville on July 27, pitched five scoreless innings in his last start against the Reds, allowing four hits and a walk on Sept.6.
Helling retired 15 straight hitters after two-out singles by Adam Dunn and Rich Aurilia in the first. Felipe Lopez ended the run in the sixth when he hit Helling's 104th pitch over the right-field wall for his 21st home run. It was only the second homer Helling has allowed in 49 innings.
Helling, who didn't walk a batter, is 2-1 in six September starts with a 1.50 ERA.
"I'm a command pitcher," he said. "And, when I'm walking guys, it's usually not a good sign."
Brandon Claussen (10-10) fell to 0-3 in five starts against Milwaukee this season. He allowed four earned runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings with five strikeouts and five walks as the Reds lost for the eighth time in 11 games.
Claussen was 6-1 in his last 11 starts with 2.64 ERA, but never seemed to settle down after the Brewers went ahead in the first.
"They are out for blood right now," Claussen said of the Brewers. "They are playing as good as anybody in the big leagues. They are swinging the bats. They are playing good defense. They just beat us."
Left fielder Carlos Lee provided two nice defensive plays.
In the third, Lee raced over to catch Ryan Freel's drive to the warning track in left-center. Then, in the seventh, with two on and two outs, he hauled in Edwin Carnacion's fly ball down the left-field line to end the inning.
Derrick Turnbow relieved with two on and two outs in the ninth. He got Freel on a liner to center with the bases loaded for his 37th save in 41 chances.
Brady Clark led off the first for the Brewers with a single and J.J. Hardy followed with his eighth homer.
In the third, Lee walked and scored on Rickie Weeks' two-out single to make it 3-0.
The Brewers added three runs, one earned, on a walk and one hit -- Clark's two-run double -- in the sixth.
The Reds scored one run off reliever Julio Santana, making his first appearance since Aug. 9.
Lopez's 21 homers are the second-most in franchise history by a SS. Barry Larkin hit 33 in 1996. ... Hardy has five home runs and 20 RBI since Aug. 31. ... Helling's eight strikeouts were the most he's had since he had eight on April 22, 2001, against Oakland while with Texas. He fanned nine on April 14, 2000, against Cleveland. ... The Brewers were three games above .500, their high point, when they opened the season with three road victories. ... Santana was activated from the disabled list (right elbow tendinitis) on Sept. 22.