MILWAUKEE (AP) – Rick Helling allowed three hits over six innings and the Milwaukee 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 J.J. Hardy homered for Milwaukee (79-78) which had not been over the break-even mark since being 24-23 on May 27. It is the most victories for the Brewers since 1996 when they went 80-82.

The Brewers have not had a winning season since 1992, when they were 92-70 and still in the American League.

Since Aug. 5, the Brewers had been at the .500 mark six times.

Helling (3-1), 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.

Helling, who didn’t walk a batter, is 2-1 in six September starts with a 1.50 ERA.

Derrick Turnbow relieved with two on and two outs in the ninth. He got Ryan Freel on a liner to center with the bases loaded for his 37th save in 41 chances.

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.

Brady Clark led off with a single and Hardy followed with his eighth homer.

In the third, Carlos 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.

Notes: 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 RBIs 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.

AP-ES-09-27-05 2251EDT

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