Reds open May vs. banged-up Brewers

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) prepares for an at bat.

Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

Coming off one of the majors’ best opening months, the banged-up Milwaukee Brewers are hoping to get some reinforcements as the try to open May with another road series win.

With Jean Segura and Aramis Ramirez expected back, the Brewers look to deal the Cincinnati Reds a fifth loss in six games in the opener of a four-game set Thursday night.

Matt Garza was the latest Milwaukee player to go down Wednesday when he was removed in the fourth inning because of a bruised right thumb he sustained while getting jammed on an at-bat to end the third.

The right-hander insists he’ll be ready for his next start after allowing five runs in three-plus innings for the Brewers, who failed to complete a three-game sweep in St. Louis with a 9-3 loss.

Though Ryan Braun remains out with a strained intercostal muscle, Segura (bruised cheek) is likely to start after playing shortstop in the eighth inning and doubling in the ninth Wednesday. Ramirez, mired in an 0-for-19 slump, is also expected back after missing two games with an elbow injury.

Carlos Gomez helped pick up the offense in the finale in St. Louis with his seventh home run and second in as many games, while Mark Reynolds added his sixth homer.

An MLB-best 20-8, the Brewers are only the fourth team with 20 wins in March and April. They’ve also won their first four road series for an 11-2 mark away from home.

Now they’re looking for Marco Estrada (2-1, 2.87 ERA) to go deep into the opener versus the Reds (12-15) after 13 relievers covered 16 innings in St. Louis. Milwaukee’s bullpen has among the most appearances in baseball with 28.

"My gosh, we’re really happy with where we are," manager Ron Roenicke told the team’s official website. "But things can change, and I don’t want it to happen to the pitching staff because we overused them."

Estrada recorded his fourth straight quality start Saturday, holding the Chicago Cubs to three runs and four hits while striking out a season-high nine over 7 2-3 innings in a 5-3 home win.

Who's faster?

The right-hander has been especially tough on the road, going 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA in his last nine starts dating to last season. In his previous outing in Cincinnati, he gave up one hit while fanning nine over seven innings in a 3-1 victory Aug. 25.

Jay Bruce is 6 for 17 with four homers in his career when facing Estrada, though Ryan Ludwick, Todd Frazier and Chris Heisey are a combined 1 for 22 in their matchups.

Cincinnati has been scuffling at the plate with 14 runs and a .212 average over its last six games. Frazier had a two-run double and Brayan Pena hit a solo homer Wednesday, but the Reds managed seven hits overall in a 9-4 loss to the visiting Cubs.

Reds starter Homer Bailey (1-2, 6.15) has been knocked around in four of his five starts after allowing five runs and nine hits over six innings in Friday’s 5-4 loss at Atlanta.

"It’s simple pitch execution," Bailey told the team’s official website. "It’s what I’m not doing in big situations."

The right-hander is 3-7 with a 5.36 ERA in 16 career starts versus Milwaukee, though he went 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his last three meetings in 2013.

The Reds have won 13 of the last 18 meetings in Cincinnati.