CINCINNATI — Eric Thames’ bat has cooled off a little since he last played against the Cincinnati Reds in late April.
The Milwaukee Brewers first baseman hasn’t homered since June 17, a span of eight games. After homering 11 times in April, Thames has gone deep nine times since.
His home run production could change when Thames and the Brewers return to Great American Ball Park to begin a three-game series against the Reds on Tuesday night.
In seven games this season against Cincinnati, Thames is batting .440 with eight home runs and 13 RBIs. He owns a robust .800 slugging percentage against the Reds.
Five of Thames’ homers came at Great American Ball Park during a four-game series in mid-April when his previously anonymous return to the major leagues from South Korea began to make national headlines.
The Brewers (41-37) were a bit of a surprise in April, too, but have since spent 36 days alone in first place in the National League Central despite Thames going 3-for-29 in his past eight games.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati (31-44) has seen its pitching fall apart in recent weeks.
The Reds have lost 14 of 16 with their rotation ranking last in the major leagues with a 6.21 ERA after an 8-2 loss at St. Louis on Monday. Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan returned from lengthy stints on the disabled list in the past week, but both were hit hard in their season debuts. Finnegan left the Monday defeat after three innings due to a left triceps strain, adding to the club’s injury woes.
Right-hander Tim Adleman (4-4, 4.30 ERA) will make his 13th straight start for the Reds on Tuesday night, his second appearance this season against Milwaukee. Adleman allowed one run in four innings of relief in a 4-2 loss to the Brewers on April 16.
That one run? You guessed it, a home run by Thames in the seventh inning.
“It’s not that every pitch he’s hit against us has been a terrible pitch,” Reds manager Bryan Price said of Thames. “He’s hit some good pitches too, but he doesn’t miss a mistake.”
The Brewers will counter with right-hander Junior Guerra, who has allowed three or fewer earned runs in each of his seven starts, despite issuing 22 walks while striking out 27 over 37 2/3 innings. Guerra is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two road starts.
Guerra will face the Reds for the first time this season. He has a 1-0 record and a 3.00 ERA in two career starts vs. Cincinnati. Adleman is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three career games (two starts) against Milwaukee.
Milwaukee will have an extra bench bat for the Reds series after claiming veteran catcher Stephen Vogt off waivers from the Oakland A’s on Sunday.
Vogt, 32, is batting just .217 this season with four homers and 20 RBIs, and the Brewers already have a regular catcher in Manny Pina who has appeared in 46 games. However, Vogt is a two-time All-Star who can give the team a formidable left-handed option off the bench.
“We’re not acquiring Stephen to play every day, I’ll tell you that,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, according to MLB.com. “Manny’s going to continue to catch his certainly fair share of games. I don’t anticipate the number of his games going down in any way. So, Stephen’s going to have to earn some playing time, but we feel like it’s a good fit.”
The Brewers have won six of seven meetings this season against the Reds, who won 11 of 19 against Milwaukee in 2016.