Milwaukee reliever Trevor Hoffman, long thought of as one of the greatest closers in league history, is on the verge of an unprecedented milestone that could come at any moment. Hoffman, stuck on 599 career saves, has been setting up for closer John Axford, giving manager Ken Macha a difficult chore of juggling relief arms.
Macha insisted before Monday's game that he would use Hoffman however he saw fit to win a game, saying that it wasn't necessarily important for the right-hander to notch his 600th save at home. As luck would have it, Macha wound up needing Hoffman in Monday's game, and the division-leading Reds forged a winning rally off him.
Now, with Tuesday's game taking on a more pointed focus, Macha's point remains the same. He'll use Hoffman if it means his best chance to close out a game, but he won't shy away from Axford if the situation calls for it.
"We're playing the Reds. ... Every game has playoff implications," Macha said. "If we had a game in St. Louis, where Axford is out of gas and I have to go to Trevor, I owe it to the integrity of the game to put the guy in."
And in this case, he owes it to Hoffman as well. Hoffman, the game's all-time leader in saves, hadn't allowed a run or a hit in five outings prior to Monday's appearance in extra innings. The right-hander had held the opposition scoreless in 23 of his previous 27 games, working back to peak efficiency after struggling in April and May.
Now, with the Reds beginning to pull away from the second-place Cardinals, Macha wants to make sure that he fields his best lineup and best pitching staff on a regular basis. Milwaukee will play the Phillies -- the leader in the race for the National League Wild Card -- next, and Macha wants to use all of his bullets wisely.
If that means Hoffman, so be it. But as far as Macha is concerned, Hoffman isn't out of potential milestones.
"We play to win every game," said Macha of his everyday strategy. "My point is that [Save No.] 600 might not be his last one. He might wind up with 605, because he has thrown the ball pretty darn good and he's a pretty good pitcher. So the folks should come out and want to listen to 'Hells Bells' every day, not just for No. 600."
The Reds are playing through a stretch of nine straight games -- and 12 out of 16 -- against NL Central division opponents, a jaunt that could help them seize further control of the division. The Reds have a six-game lead over the Cardinals, their biggest advantage since the 1995 team won the division by nine games.
Cincinnati will hand the ball to veteran Aaron Harang on Tuesday, and he'll be pitching to cement a slot in the postseason rotation. The Brewers will counter with youngster Yovani Gallardo, who's working through a difficult stretch. Gallardo, who's 3-2 with a 6.27 ERA since the All-Star break, could use a good start in the worst way.
Brewers: Gallardo looking to return to form
Gallardo cruised through the first few months of the season, logging an ERA below 4.00 in each of the season's first three months. He stumbled in July to a 4.76 mark in three outings, and he's posted a 6.59 ERA in his past five outings. Gallardo has allowed more than four runs just four times this season, including in two straight starts.
Axford, who was recalled from Triple-A Nashville on May 15, has set a new franchise record by logging 19 saves. The previous team mark was set by Doug Henry, who notched 15 saves in 1991. Axford has blown just two saves this season -- six less than Hoffman -- and has recorded seven saves of four outs or more this season.
Reds: Harang ready to take mound
Harang, who has been on the disabled list since July 1 due to lower back spasms, will make his return on Tuesday. The right-hander bounced back from a subpar April by posting ERA's under 4.50 in both May and June. Harang completed six innings in all six May starts, and he managed to do it in four of his final six starts before hitting the DL.
Hoffman recorded his 599th save on Sunday. ... The Reds played host to just 14,589 fans on Monday night, registering their smallest crowd since June 8. ... Brandon Phillips missed his fourth straight start with a bruised right hand. Phillips entered Monday's game as a pinch-runner and hasn't started since Wednesday. ... The Brewers currently have four players with 20 home runs, and if Ryan Braun can get there, it will mark the fourth time in franchise history -- and the third time in four years -- that Milwaukee has had five 20-homer hitters. Braun hit No. 19 on Sunday.
Tue, 8/31 7:10 PM ET
Chapmania in Cincinnati: Reds riding wave
Aroldis Chapman touched 102 mph twice and fanned his first batter in a dominant debut after Joey Votto's three RBIs vs. Yovani Gallardo sparked the Reds, who extended their Central lead to seven games.
|Hart, C, RF||5||1||1||0||0||1||6||.280|
|Parra, M, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.182|
|Gomes, J, LF||3||1||1||2||1||1||3||.262|
HR: Weeks (25, 9th inning off Ondrusek, 0 on, 0 out).
TB: Weeks 5; Hart, C; Braun 2; Fielder; McGehee; Dickerson; Counsell; Gallardo 2.
RBI: Fielder (69), Weeks (75).
2-out RBI: Fielder.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Dickerson 2; Hart, C; Counsell.
GIDP: Hart, C.
Team RISP: 2-for-10.
Team LOB: 10.
2B: Votto 2 (27, Gallardo, Gallardo), Rolen 2 (29, Gallardo, Parra, M), Heisey (5, Gallardo), Stubbs (16, Gallardo), Janish (7, Gallardo).
HR: Gomes, J (15, 4th inning off Gallardo, 1 on, 0 out).
TB: Stubbs 2; Valaika; Votto 4; Rolen 4; Gomes, J 4; Heisey 2; Janish 3.
RBI: Votto 3 (97), Gomes, J 2 (71), Janish (20), Rolen 2 (76).
2-out RBI: Rolen 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Heisey 2; Gomes, J 2.
Team RISP: 4-for-14.
Team LOB: 6.
CS: Heisey (2, home by Gallardo/Lucroy).
E: Gomes, J (4, fielding).
Harang pitched to 2 batters in the 5th.
IBB: Gomes, J (by Gallardo).
Pitches-strikes: Gallardo 108-65, Parra, M 32-17, Coffey 11-8, Harang 91-55, LeCure 30-20, Bray 11-5, Chapman 8-7, Ondrusek 9-7.
Groundouts-flyouts: Gallardo 7-0, Parra, M 3-0, Coffey 1-0, Harang 4-3, LeCure 2-3, Bray 1-2, Chapman 2-0, Ondrusek 2-1.
Batters faced: Gallardo 27, Parra, M 8, Coffey 3, Harang 22, LeCure 8, Bray 3, Chapman 3, Ondrusek 5.
Inherited runners-scored: Parra, M 2-2, LeCure 2-2.
Umpires: HP: Fieldin Culbreth. 1B: Todd Tichenor. 2B: Gary Cederstrom. 3B: Ed Hickox.
Weather: 88 degrees, partly cloudy.
Wind: 3 mph, In from RF.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media