Reds-Brewers Preview

After a rough beginning to this stretch without Ryan Braun, the

Milwaukee Brewers are back on track.

That doesn’t mean they don’t want their All-Star left fielder

back in the lineup.

The Brewers host the Cincinnati Reds as they look for a fourth

straight win Saturday night, and Braun could return after missing

the last six games.

Braun strained his left calf last Saturday in an 8-7 win at

Minnesota. The Brewers (48-42) lost their first three without him,

including their first back-to-back home losses of 2011.

Milwaukee has recovered with three straight wins to improve the

majors’ best home record to 32-13. Manager Ron Roenicke hoped that

Braun would be available to pinch-hit Friday, but the slugger

rested another day.

“It seems to be going longer than we thought,” Roenicke told the

Brewers’ official website. “He’s still shooting for hopefully

playing a game Saturday or Sunday.”

The Brewers entered this four-game set with a 2-7 mark against

the Reds (44-46) before a pair of thrilling one-run wins to start

it. Closer John Axford pitched in and out of trouble in the ninth

inning of Thursday’s 5-4 victory and Milwaukee scored three runs in

the bottom of the ninth Friday to beat Francisco Cordero in an 8-7

win.

Mark Kotsay, who homered earlier, capped Friday’s rally with a

two-run single with two outs as Milwaukee moved back into sole

possession of the NL Central lead.

“We have good character here,” Kotsay said. “We talk about it a

lot – we play the game to the final out. That’s what the manager

expects, what the fans expect, and that’s what we’re here to do. I

don’t know if every club has that demeanor.”

Cincinnati, the defending division champion, fell two games

under .500 for the first time since April 27, 2010. The Reds have

lost six of eight.

“It’s a devastating loss,” Cordero said. “We’re chasing the

Brewers and the Pirates and St. Louis. We could’ve been a game

closer, but now we’re a game further back.”

All-Stars Joey Votto and Jay Bruce each homered and had two

hits. Votto is hitting .368 with four homers and nine RBIs against

the Brewers this year while Bruce is batting .318 with four homers

and 11 RBIs.

The Reds will turn to Johnny Cueto (5-3, 1.77 ERA), who pitched

an eight-inning complete game in Monday’s 1-0 loss at St. Louis.

Cueto is 0-2 in three career starts at Miller Park, allowing eight

runs in 1 1-3 innings of a 13-1 loss in his last outing there Sept.

22.

Prince Fielder is 7 for 20 with three doubles and two home runs

against Cueto and Corey Hart is 6 for 21 with three homers.

The Brewers have lost the last four starts by Shaun Marcum (7-3,

3.32) and seven of his last eight. Marcum is 1-2 with a 4.83 ERA

over his last eight, and 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in the last four while

dealing with a hip problem.

The right-hander hit a grand slam Monday but yielded four runs

over six innings and did not receive a decision in an 8-6 loss to

Arizona.

Marcum is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts against the Reds

this year. Votto was 3 for 6 against him in those games while

Brandon Phillips went 0 for 6.