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
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.
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
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.