Sun Jul 21 11:41pm ET
Next weekend, the Milwaukee Brewers face the Chicago Cubs in a showdown for the lead the National League Central. First, they must turn their focus to the Cincinnati Reds.
After a successful weekend trip to Arizona, the Brewers return home Monday night and host the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a three-game series.
The NL Central's five teams are separated by nine games, with the Cubs, Milwaukee and St. Louis occupying the top three spots while being separated by 2 1/2 games. The Cubs visit Milwaukee for three games next week and lead the division by two games, while the Brewers lead the Cardinals by a half-game.
Milwaukee won three of four over the Arizona Diamondbacks, ending its weekend trip with a 7-4 victory when Tyler Saladino hit a grand slam and Mike Moustakas hit a go-ahead RBI single in the eighth. The Brewers are 5-1 in their last six games after losing eight of 10 from July 2-15.
"It feels like we're getting contributions from a big part of the roster," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "That's what we talk about. That's how we're going to win series."
Milwaukee's slump before the break included three games in Cincinnati. The Brewers scored eight runs in winning the opener of a four-game series but scored four times in the final three games and went scoreless for the final 23 innings of the series.
The Brewers will play without Ryan Braun, who is attending the funeral of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died three weeks ago in a Texas hotel room.
Cincinnati is 3-9 since it last faced Milwaukee and is struggling to consistently produce at the plate. While the Reds scored 17 runs July 13 in Colorado and 11 times Friday to St. Louis, they have been held to three runs or fewer seven times in this slide, including Sunday when they struck out 14 times and went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position in a 3-1 loss.
"We're not anywhere close to where we want to be. For us, it's certainly about going about things the right way and having a process, but for us the results are either you're in the playoffs and have a chance to win the World Series, or you're not," Reds manager David Bell said.
Cincinnati's pitching is not the cause of its recent problems most games as its 3.89 ERA is the fifth-lowest in the majors after Anthony DeScalfani struck out 11 Sunday.
The Reds will hope to continue its trend of decent starting pitching when Sonny Gray (5-6, 3.40 ERA) opens the series. Gray has made four straight quality starts and allowed two runs on two hits in six innings Wednesday in Chicago.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA in four career starts against Milwaukee. Three of those starts are this season, including July 3 when he fanned 12 in eight innings.
Milwaukee will place Brandon Woodruff on the injured list Monday with a left oblique injury and then will open the series by starting Chase Anderson (5-2, 3.96).
Anderson is 4-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 14 starts and last pitched Wednesday against Atlanta when he allowed one hit in 5 2/3 scoreless innings of a 5-4 win. He is 5-3 with a 3.80 ERA in 13 career starts against Cincinnati.
--Field Level Media