09/19/10 2:26 PM ET
Brewers stand in way of Reds' push to finish line
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
But the final stretch won't be an easy one, and there's no doubt the Brewers will do their best to trip them up Monday, when the clubs meet in the first game of a three-game series.
"The Brewers, they're an explosive offensive team," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You got Corey Hart and Prince Fielder and [Ryan] Braun. Those people can beat you by themselves, and if they get a good-pitched game ... and Rickie Weeks. They got some competitors that can hit."
Baker is right. His club also needs to play better. Cincinnati leads the National League Central by six games with 12 games to play but is coming off a series loss to the Astros. The Reds are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
For their part, the Brewers have embraced their role as a "spoiler." Milwaukee just won a series from the Giants and has been getting outstanding starting pitching this month. Milwaukee pitchers entered Sunday with 11 quality starts in 16 games. Additionally, starters posted a 2.20 ERA in their first 98 1/3 innings of September before Chris Narveson gave up four runs in the first inning Sunday.
"Our whole pitching staff has really been tremendous the last couple of weeks," Braun said. "They have really carried us."
It will be up to Chris Capuano to continue Milwaukee's recent dominance on the mound. After a rocky game against the Pirates in his first start of the season, Capuano has a 2.45 ERA and a .194 opponents' average in his last three starts.
The Reds will counter with Homer Bailey, who left Wednesday's start after 83 pitches in three innings due to dizziness, in what could be his biggest game of the season. Not only are the Reds trying to seal their postseason fate, but Bailey is trying to earn a spot in the playoff rotation.
"It's going to be big, just like any one from here on out," Reds outfielder Drew Stubbs said. "We're trying to shrink the schedule right now. As we shrink that schedule, the margin for error [for opponents] gets smaller and gets us closer to the postseason."
The Brewers' pitching staff will be ready.
"It's been phenomenal," Milwaukee closer John Axford said. "It's great to be able to come together and step up to beat a quality team."
Reds: Starters on a roll
Reds starters have not allowed more than three earned runs in their last 11 starts. They produced 80 quality starts this season. ... Francisco Cordero's 109 saves with the Reds rank him fourth all time in franchise history. He converted 36 of his first 44 save opportunities this season. ... Forty-eight of Aroldis Chapman's first 127 pitches have registered at 100 mph or higher. ... The Reds are 27-5-2 in their last 34 series.
Brewers: Braun wielding a hot bat
Ryan Braun hit .362 with three home runs and nine RBIs through the first 14 games in September. He batted an NL-best .424 in August. ... Chris Dickerson is batting .229 (11-for-48) in his first 21 game with the Brewers. ... Prince Fielder is among the NL leaders in walks with 99 and hit-by-pitches with 21. ... The Brewers are 7-13-4 in series played on the road this season.
The Reds are 105-96-1 all time against the Brewers. They have won 11 of their last 12 games against Milwaukee and are 44-38 in the last three seasons against the Brewers. ... The Reds are 42-37 in games started by catcher Ramon Hernandez and 34-19 in games Ryan Hanigan starts behind the plate. The club is 8-10 when Corky Miller catches.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.