Marco Estrada's last start was a microcosm of all the things that have gone wrong for the right-hander of late, and it was enough for Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke to admit he was concerned about the right-hander.
In a 6-2 road loss to the Mets last Tuesday, Estrada's tendency to give up home runs bit him in a big way as he allowed a two-run home run to Daniel Murphy and a game-deciding grand slam to Taylor Teagarden. The control wasn't there either -- before Teagarden's home run, Estrada had walked the bases loaded.
But Roenicke has since reasserted his faith in Estrada (5-3, 4.56), who has one quality start in his last five tries. He'll send the righty to the mound on Sunday in the rubber match against Cincinnati, with Milwaukee looking for a win or split in its eighth straight series.
"I thought the last outing was really good, except for two pitches," Roenicke said. "If he throws the ball like that, and we don't have those two pitches that go out of the ballpark with people on base ... solos don't bother me much, but you can't walk the bases loaded. But I thought he threw the ball well. He gave up four hits."
Estrada leads the Major Leagues with 20 home runs allowed and has allowed at least one homer in 12 of his 13 starts. He has also had control problems as of late, walking three or more in three straight appearances.
"I threw a lot of close pitches, guys just laid off of them," Estrada said after his last start. "They had good at-bats off of me. A few got away from me. I don't know. I don't understand why I'm walking so many guys right now. I have to figure this out now, because it's getting out of hand."
Starting opposite Estrada will be Mike Leake, who has had problems of his own as of late. After a nice start to the season, he's given up 10 runs in 10 1/3 innings over his last two starts against the Giants and Dodgers. The Cincinnati righty is 3-6, including a tough-luck loss to Milwaukee on May 5 in which he allowed two runs over eight innings.
After the Reds' rotation got a boost from the returning Mat Latos, who threw six shutout innings Saturday, the bullpen will get some help in the form of Tony Cingrani, who was pushed from the rotation into the bullpen. Reds manager Bryan Price said Cingrani will be in long relief there.
"We still see Tony as a starting pitcher for us. However, our need with our club is someone who can give us some length," Price said. "Out of everyone in our organization, to take on that role, for a multitude of reasons -- No. 1 he's stretched out, No. 2 he's pitched out of the bullpen, both in college and in the major leagues and he's familiar with the National League a lot more than he was a couple of years ago - he's the right guy."
Reds: Marshall returns to the disabled list
Lefty reliever Sean Marshall was placed on the 15-day DL for the second time this season due to a left shoulder strain. Marshall has dealt with shoulder issues since just before the 2013 season.
"On my best days, I feel like I'm 80 percent of who I used to be," Marshall said. "I feel like I just can't quite get back to my old self."
The Reds previously activated Marshall on April 19, but he wasn't as effective as he had been in 2012, his first season for the club.
In 15 games, totaling 14 1/3 innings, Marshall had a 7.71 ERA with 23 hits, 12 earned runs, 12 walks and 14 strikeouts. His fastball velocity has been down in the low-to-mid 80s, from its usual upper 80s and 90 mph. He retired only five of 15 first batters faced and allowed five of his 11 inherited runners to score.
Brewers: Schafer demotion not about production
Though the Brewers demoted outfielder Logan Schafer to Triple-A Nashville following Friday night's game, Roenicke said he wasn't necessarily disappointed with Schafer's performance in a pinch-hitting role this season. Schafer was batting .190 in 92 plate appearances this season.
"I think it's really rare to have a young guy come to the big leagues and be able to produce off the bench. It's hardly ever the case," Roenicke said. "What we get from Logan is great defense. He's got value other than what the batting average is."
• Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez has reached base in 29 straight games, the longest current streak in the Major Leagues. He also has a 12-game hitting streak, the longest by any Brewer this season.
• Though the Brewers are in first place, the fourth-place Reds have had success against Milwaukee this season. Cincinnati has won four of their six meetings.
• Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips has not struck out in 30 straight plate appearances; Billy Hamilton has not struck out in 26. Both are among the top 10 current active streaks in that category.
Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.