Right-hander Tyler Mahle starts the opener of a crucial three-game series for Cincinnati on Tuesday at Milwaukee as the Reds look to close the gap on the front-running Brewers.
Cincinnati, coming off a four-game sweep of Miami, enters the series 7 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the National League Central, but has been unable to gain ground as both the Reds and Brewers have won seven of their last 10.
“It’s the next series, so it’s the next challenge in front of us,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We take it as that. They’re an inter-divisional team, they’re the team that’s closest to us, so it’s the next challenge and we’ll tackle it like that.”
Mahle (10-4, 3.78 ERA) will be opposed by right-hander Corbin Burnes (8-4, 2.13), second in the National League in ERA behind Walker Buehler of the Dodgers at 2.11 ERA.
The series is the last regular-season meeting between the two teams, who have split the first 16 games — but the road team has won 13 of those 16. The Reds won three of four games at Milwaukee before the All-Star break, while the Brewers opened the second half with a three-game sweep at Cincinnati.
Milwaukee went 8-2 on its more recent road trip against division rivals Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, and then returned home to take two of three from the Nationals over the weekend.
“We’ve been playing great. We’ve just got to keep it going,” Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain said. “We know we still have the rest of August and then September. Nothing’s going to be handed to us, so we’ve got to keep pushing. Hopefully continue to win series and hopefully get a few sweeps in there, as well, and just try to play consistent baseball down the stretch.”
The Brewers are an astonishing 42-21 on the road, compared with 34-28 at home. The Reds have won six of the last seven games and eight of the last 10 games at Milwaukee. Cincinnati holds a one-game lead over San Diego for the second wild-card spot. Both the Reds and Brewers were off Monday.
“It’s right where we want to be,” Reds manager David Bell said. “And also realizing just how much we have left ahead of us. There’s just not really a better time of year for a baseball player. It’s not even close. This is what it’s all about.”
Burnes is 6-0 with a 2.01 ERA over his last 13 starts. Overall this season, he has 175 strikeouts with just 23 walks in 127 innings. In his last start, Burnes allowed just two hits in six scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory at St. Louis.
Burnes was dominant in his only start against Cincinnati on July 18, pitching 8 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out 12.
Mahle is 1-0 with a 4.67 ERA in three starts this season against the Brewers. In a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee on June 16, Mahle allowed just one run on three hits, striking out 12 and walking two.
The Brewers offense has been bolstered by a return to form by Christian Yelich, who struggled early. Yelich, on the COVID-19 injured list from July 27 to Aug. 6, is batting .356 (16-for-45) over his last 11 games with two homers and 10 RBIs.
Yelich had a grand slam, a solo homer and six RBIs in a 9-6 victory over the Nationals on Saturday, giving him eight home runs on the season. He had not homered since July 18.
Yelich had 36 homers in his 2018 MVP season and 44 in 2019 before a season-ending fractured kneecap. He had 12 homers in 58 games last season.
–Field Level Media