CINCINNATI -- The NL Central leaders have big problems. Not even All-Star closer Francisco Cordero can save them now.
They're still in first place, but not by much. And, they're playing like they don't deserve to be there.
"We definitely have to start playing better," manager Ned Yost said, after Milwaukee lost three of four to what was a last-place team. "If anybody thinks we're just sitting here doing fine, they're fooling themselves."
After leading the division since late April, the Brewers are starting to look like fool's gold.
They pulled out to an 8½-game lead on June 23, when they weren't getting much pressure from the rest of the division. They've gone 13-15 since then, allowing the fast-closing Cubs to nearly pull even.
The Cubs lost to St. Louis 10-1 later Thursday, leaving the Brewers with a two-game lead.
"We're not trying to hold anybody off," said starter Dave Bush, who lasted only 5 1/3 innings. "We've still got a lot of games to win if we're going to be in position to get into the playoffs. I don't pay any attention (to the standings) at all. There are many more things to worry about than that."
Usually, Cordero is the least of their worries.
For only the fourth time this season, Cordero (0-3) let the Brewers down in a save situation. He came on with a 5-4 lead in the ninth and gave up a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Norris Hopper, who slapped a pitch to right field. Scott Hatteberg followed with a tying single to center.
"I wasn't mad at myself," Cordero said. "I made the pitches I wanted to make there. It was a pretty good pitch (to Hopper), a slider down and away, and he just blooped it to right field."
It was only the fourth time in 36 tries that Cordero has failed to come through. All four of his blown saves have come on the road: back-to-back in Texas on June 9-10, and at Wrigley Field on June 29.
The Reds have gone 13-8 since interim manager Pete Mackanin took over for Jerry Narron on July 1, relinquishing their distinction as the major leagues' worst team.
"The last couple of weeks, we've played the way everyone thought we would play," Valentin said.
Jared Burton (2-1) pitched one inning for the victory, which came after the NL's worst bullpen blew a lead of its own.
Milwaukee came to town hoping for a turnaround. The Brewers traded three pitching prospects for setup man Scott Linebrink on Wednesday -- he'll join the team for a weekend series in St. Louis -- in a move that showed their determination to hold onto first place.
A balky offense has to come around in order for the deal to make a difference.
"It's not the best baseball we're playing now," Cordero said.
Griffey broke out of his slump with three hits -- a single, a run-scoring double and a solo homer off Bush. Griffey is sixth on the career list, trailing Sammy Sosa at 603.
The three-hit game pulled Griffey out of a 2-for-28 slump.
"Basically, this game's a roller coaster, and you've just got to ride them out -- weather the storms," Griffey said. "We might not be able to make the playoffs, but we can go out and make it tough for other people."
Jeff Keppinger, who broke open Cincinnati's 7-3 win on Wednesday night with a three-run double, singled with the bases loaded to drive in two more on Thursday for a 4-2 lead that the bullpen couldn't hold.
Graffanino tied it with his solo homer in the seventh off Kirk Saarloos, who has allowed the last 10 batters he faced to reach safely -- eight hits, a walk and a hit batter. Corey Hart's RBI single off Todd Coffey gave the Brewers a 5-4 lead in the eighth.
- Bush is 0-2 in four starts at Great American Ball Park, giving up 21 runs in only 17 1/3 innings. He gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings Thursday.
- Dunn extended his hitting streak to 12 games, matching his career high.
- Reds LH Eddie Guardado will pitch for Triple-A Louisville on Saturday, starting his second rehab assignment. Guardado, who is recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery last September, had to stop pitching in the minors last month when his forearm became sore.