Reds-Brewers Preview

For the Cincinnati Reds, beating the Milwaukee Brewers lately
has been like taking candy from a baby.

Cincinnati starter Mike Leake isn’t letting issues of theft
distract him on the mound.

Leake seeks to remain unbeaten himself and help the Reds improve
to 5-0 in the season series with the Brewers on Tuesday night at
Miller Park.

Only one-half game separates NL Central contenders Cincinnati
(12-11) and Milwaukee (11-11), but the division rivals have been
anything but evenly matched when facing each other recently. The
Reds have taken 19 of the last 22 meetings dating to July 2009,
including a three-game home sweep to open this season and a 9-5
victory in Monday’s series opener.

The Reds have outscored the Brewers 32-16 in 2011.

“We haven’t scored as many runs as they have,” said Milwaukee
third baseman Casey McGehee, who sprained his left thumb on
Monday’s final play and will be re-evaluated Tuesday. “It’s as
simple as that.”

Brandon Phillips went 3 for 4 and drove in three runs Monday,
while Jay Bruce added a two-run homer. It was an encouraging
performance for the Reds, who had been hitting .229 in a 3-8
stretch entering this series.

“We’re coming together, it’s about that time,” said Phillips,
who batted cleanup for the first time this season. “Good teams are
going to go through things like that.”

Leake (3-0, 4.94 ERA) has benefited greatly from the Cincinnati
offense, which has supported him with 11.8 runs per nine innings in
his four starts. The 23-year-old right-hander pitched solidly in a
7-4 home victory over Arizona on Thursday, limiting the
Diamondbacks to three runs and four hits over seven innings.

Most impressively, Leake managed to brush distractions aside and
earn the win three days after getting arrested for shoplifting from
a Cincinnati department store.

“I’ll be better once it’s all done,” said Leake, the Reds’ top
draft pick in 2009. “Right now, I’ve just got to eat it and go out
there and do what I can for the team.”

Leake has never faced the Brewers. He’ll be opposed by Marco
Estrada (1-0, 3.21), who will make his third start of the season to
go with a pair of relief appearances. The right-hander pitched well
in his last start April 17 at Washington, limiting the Nationals to
one run over six innings while striking out seven, but didn’t get a
decision in Milwaukee’s 5-1 loss.

Estrada pitched a perfect inning of relief against Houston on
Friday. He’s made one career appearance out of the bullpen against
the Reds, allowing one run over four innings last May.

A bright spot for the Brewers on Monday was Ryan Braun, who had
two hits including a two-run homer – his eighth of the season, tied
with Toronto’s Jose Bautista for the major league lead.

The reigning NL player of the week, Braun also extended his
hitting streak to 10 games and has reached base safely in the first
22 games of the season – one shy of Robin Yount’s franchise record
set in 1983. He’s 6 for 16 with three homers and six runs scored
versus Cincinnati in 2011.