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PHI@MIL: Wolf throws seven frames of two-run ball

If the Brewers don't want a rift between them and setup man Francisco Rodriguez to fester, if they don't want talk of Prince Fielder's apparent exodus from Milwaukee at season's end to take away from one of the most charmed seasons in Brewers history, they need to return to what had gotten them to the verge of their first division championship since 1982 -- when they played in the American League East.

They need to start winning again.

The Brewers' magic number to clinch the National League Central Division remained at eight after Wednesday night's 6-2 loss to the Rockies, but their lead over the Cardinals in the division is down to 5 1/2 games, the narrowest it has been since Aug. 15.

But fortunes may change against a division foe, and one of the Brewers' best offensive threats could be in store for a huge weekend against the Reds. Left fielder Ryan Braun's nine career home runs at Great American Ball Park are his most at any road venue. He is just two homers shy of joining Tommy Harper (1970) as the only Brewer to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season.

"He does so many exceptional things to help your team win," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The 30/30 [club], if he hadn't hurt his knee, he has a chance to be 40/40. He really does."

For Braun, 8 -- the magic number -- has far more meaning than a 30/30 season.

"It's fun to play meaningful games at this time of year. We all know what's at stake," he said. "All that matters is wins and losses. Nothing else matters, nothing individually. It doesn't matter how you get there. ... We just have to find ways to win games."

It was only a year ago the Reds were playing meaningful games this late in the season. This time around, they are fighting the climb back toward a .500 record. Bronson Arroyo will face Milwaukee's Randy Wolf on Friday.

Wolf is making his 31st start on the year, and the fly-ball pitcher has posted a 3.44 ERA. He allowed two earned runs over seven in his last outing against the Reds on July 10. After 29 starts, Arroyo carries a 5.28 ERA, and he is coming off an outing in which he lasted just one inning and allowed six earned runs to the Rockies, facing 10 batters and throwing 42 pitches before getting pulled.

Brewers: K-Rod displeased with role
• Rodriguez would like more save opportunities and said club officials had told him he would platoon with closer John Axford when Axford needed rest. But Axford is 19-for-19 in save opportunities since the Brewers acquired Rodriguez from the Mets on the night of the All-Star Game, and Rodriguez is still waiting for his first opportunity.

"There's been plenty of save opportunities," Rodriguez said. "And I've only pitched once in the ninth inning, and it was not even a save opportunity. I'm not happy. It's simple. That's the bottom line. They told me one thing, they haven't done it, and that's pretty much what I said. I stand by what I said."

• Fielder hinted this is likely his final year in Milwaukee. In a TV interview with TBS that will air Sunday, Fielder said, "I'm signed for this year, but being real about it, it is probably the last year."

Reds: Heisey wants to improve opposite-field hitting
•Left fielder Chris Heisey has hit just .208 against left-handed pitchers in only 48 at-bats.

Manager Dusty Baker would like to give him more chances to work on his hitting vs. left-handers.

"We're trying to give him a theory and philosophy because that's what he was struggling against," Baker said. "He's starting to learn to use the whole field. He's predominantly a pull hitter, which doesn't really work against left-handers too much."

Worth noting
:
• The Reds are 12-2 against Milwaukee at Great American Ball Park the last two seasons, including 5-1 this year.

• Bronson Arroyo, scheduled to start for the Reds on Friday, has allowed 40 homers this season, tied for most in franchise history with Eric Milton (2005).

• The Brewers' next six games are on the road, where they have gone 35-40 on the year.

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