Brewers-Reds Preview

The Cincinnati Reds’ newest relief pitcher can hit 102 mph on a

major league radar gun.

That seems fitting on a team that’s running away with the NL

Central at breakneck speed.

The Reds seek to begin September by continuing their recent

dominance of the Milwaukee Brewers and completing a three-game home

sweep Wednesday night.

Cincinnati (77-55) began the month of August out of a playoff

spot, trailing St. Louis by one-half game for the Central lead.

That picture has changed drastically, as the Reds went a major

league-best 19-8 in August to open up a season-high seven-game

bulge on the Cardinals. They appear nearly certain to finish with a

winning record for the first time since they went 85-77 in

2000.

The Reds capped their banner month with three straight

victories, winning 5-4 on Monday and 8-4 on Tuesday in this series

against the Brewers (62-70). The highlight of Tuesday’s victory was

the major league debut of heralded Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman,

who threw a perfect inning of relief as four of his seven pitches

hit triple digits on the radar gun – one clocked in at 102 mph.

“It’s a big thing for me,” the 22-year-old Chapman said,

speaking through a translator. “Being able to come up and pitch not

only here, but to pitch for the Reds in the playoffs would be

something great for me, to keep going with the team and someday get

an opportunity to win it all.”

If the Reds’ division lead weren’t comfortable enough, their

remaining schedule may give them an even bigger margin for error.

They have two full series remaining against Milwaukee, including

three games at home to conclude the regular season. Cincinnati is

4-0 at home versus the Brewers in 2010, 6-1 in the overall season

series, and has taken 10 of the last 11 meetings between the

clubs.

Corner infielders Joey Votto and Scott Rolen had two doubles

apiece and combined for five RBIs in Tuesday’s win. Votto extended

his hitting streak to 10 games, and is batting .354 with 37 RBIs in

39 games since the All-Star break – emerging as a top NL MVP

candidate. His success appears likely to continue in the series

finale, as he is 4 for 5 with a homer off probable Milwaukee

starter Chris Narveson (10-7, 5.52 ERA).

Narveson lost his only previous start against Cincinnati, a 10-2

defeat in Milwaukee on July 28 in which he gave up three runs in

five innings. However, the left-hander has been a valuable

contributor for the Brewers as one of the staff’s three 10-game

winners, joining Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf.

Narveson reached that plateau in Friday night’s 7-2 victory over

Pittsburgh, allowing two runs and striking out eight over seven

innings.

“It’s nice,” Narveson said of his 10th win. “It definitely was

a goal of mine to be able to get to.”

Narveson will be opposed by Johnny Cueto (12-4, 3.49), who is

2-1 with a 2.97 ERA in six career starts against the Brewers.

The right-hander, who received a seven-game suspension for

kicking players on the Cardinals during a brawl last month, earned

his first win since that incident in his last start. He allowed one

run and six hits while striking out eight in eight innings of

Friday’s 7-1 victory over the Cubs.

The Brewers are trying to avoid their 11th losing streak of the

season of at least three games.