The Cincinnati Reds have hit a hot streak, winning eight of their past 10 games, as they begin a three-game series at National League Central Division co-leader Milwaukee on Monday.
Not to be upstaged, however, the Brewers have won nine of 10, with two series sweeps along the way, and the only loss came as the Reds won the middle game of a three-game set in Cincinnati last week.
Not that it has always been easy for Milwaukee. The Brewers finished off a three-game sweep of visiting Pittsburgh on Sunday, but they needed to score late in all three games to put away the last-place Pirates.
Brewers bench coach Pat Murphy ran the team Sunday with manager Craig Counsell away to attend his son’s high school graduation, and he said he doesn’t think the team is taking its success for granted.
“I think the guys know. What I sense is the guys kind of know how they have to be right now, that nothing’s gonna come easy. … It’s understanding we could lose any game. And, they have fun, too,” Murphy said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Amid a stretch of 16 games without a day off, Counsell has decided to go with a six-man starting rotation, opening the door for lefty Eric Lauer (1-2, 4.82 ERA) to make his fifth start of the season.
Lauer has faced the Reds six times in his career, five of those as a starter, and is 1-2 with a .432 ERA. His only relief appearance against them came last week, when he allowed two runs on two hits and four walks in four innings in the one game the Brewers lost in the series, 7-3 on Wednesday.
The Reds are also coming off a sweep, knocking off the visiting Colorado Rockies 6-2 on Sunday and outscoring them 27-10 for the weekend. The Reds have been as many as six games below .500 this season, but the recent burst has them one game over .500 for the first time since April 21.
With Sonny Gray out with a groin injury, right-hander Tony Santillan, Cincinnati’s ninth-rated prospect, made his major league debut for the Reds on Sunday. He showed at times quite impressive stuff but shaky command as he dodged major trouble, allowing one run on five hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out five.
That left 4 1/3 frames for the embattled bullpen, but five relievers combined to allow just one run on one hit and two walks. And the Reds are without their top reliever, Tejay Antone, who is on the 10-day injured list with right forearm inflammation.
“We’re at a point where we came together as a group and realized, ‘It can either go one or two ways at this point, boys. Let’s figure out something,'” said Lucas Sims, who closed out Sunday’s win with two scoreless innings. “This was a very big game for us. Very big game for us.”
Monday’s scheduled starter for Cincinnati is another rotation fill-in, Vladimir Gutierrez (2-1, 2.65 ERA). The right-hander has made three starts in place of Jeff Hoffman (shoulder injury), and he’ll be facing the Brewers for his second consecutive start.
Gutierrez went seven innings in the Reds’ win on Wednesday. He allowed two runs on six hits and three walks and struck out seven.
-Field Level Media