Preview: Brewers at Reds

CINCINNATI — Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell believes Zach Davies’ fastball command is among the best in the game.

But when it eludes him, the right-hander struggles. Davies allowed four runs in the third inning on April 4 against the Colorado Rockies and then again in the first inning last Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.

“He has elite command,” Counsell said. “He was a little off with it the first couple starts, and really for the first inning or so of Sunday’s start. He got on track with it and the last three innings were really good.”

Davies (0-2) finished Sunday’s outing by retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced. He’s hoping to carry that momentum into his third start of the season on Saturday afternoon against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, where he tossed seven shutout innings last July. He gave up only four hits, didn’t walk a batter and fanned five in a 1-0 loss.

“For Zach, it’s always going to start with his fastball command,” Counsell said. “It’s something he does really well. It’s kind of his bread and butter.”

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Davies is 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA in five career starts against Cincinnati, including a 1-1 mark and 3.97 ERA against the Reds last year.

Left-hander Brandon Finnegan (1-0) takes the mound for the Reds on Saturday. Finnegan overcame a rocky start to toss seven shutout innings in his season debut, but he wasn’t so fortunate in his next start on Monday in Pittsburgh where he didn’t pitch past the third inning.

“He was able to funnel it and shorten the game,” Reds manager Bryan Price said of Finnegan’s second start. “That’s what you want to see. He threw some good sliders, but he had better command of the changeup.”

To be more specific, the two-seam changeup which Finnegan and catcher Tucker Barnhart managed to perfection in that game.

On Saturday, Finnegan faces a Brewers club that he has had decent results against in a Reds uniform, going 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four starts and pitching past the fifth inning in each of those outings.

There was one hiccup, last May 7 when Finnegan allowed three home runs in a 13-7 loss at Great American Ball Park. One of those was hit by Ryan Braun, which should come to no surprise.

Entering Saturday’s game, Braun has 36 career home run versus Reds pitching including 21 at Great American Ball Park. The 36 homers were the most against the Reds since 2007, Braun’s rookie year.

Saturday’s start is yet another opportunity for Finnegan to show he can be an effective major-league starter.

“He learned to pitch deep into games (last year),” said Price. “He’s done a wonderful job. But, I want to see him take that step forward. To get strike one and make in-game adjustments.”

Saturday’s game pits two rebuilding clubs which have had positive starts to the season.

Milwaukee (6-5) has won four straight games and is above .500 for the first time since finishing the 2014 season 82-80. The Reds (7-4) won their first three series for the first time since the 1990 world championship season, but they need a win on Saturday to maintain hopes for a series split with the Brewers.