BREWERS (45-39) AT REDS (38-43)
7:10 p.m. ET; FS-O, FSWI, MLB.TV
The NL Central is the most competitive division in the majors, and the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers begin the final week before the All-Star break with two distinctly different goals.
The Reds are hoping to make the race even more competitive, while the Brewers are hoping to move into sole possession of the division lead.
The teams will get their first chances at meeting those goals Monday night when Milwaukee visits Cincinnati for the opener of a four-game series.
Only 5 1/2 games separate the five teams in the division, with Milwaukee tied with the Chicago Cubs for first place at 45-39 and Cincinnati in fifth at 38-43.
The Brewers head into the series after taking two of three at home from the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have not scored more than four runs in their last six games since getting 20 runs in the final three games of a four-game set in Milwaukee against the Reds June 20-23.
Milwaukee secured the series over Pittsburgh with Sunday’s 2-1 win, when Eric Thames hit a tiebreaking pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning.
The Brewers are trying to get three straight wins for the first time since winning four straight from June 6-9, a streak that elevated them to 38-28.
“You’re not making progress, but you’re not hurting yourself,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said of his team’s uneven play before Sunday’s game. “That’s what happened in June. … We’re going to try to get better, because we know we need to be better than that to be a playoff team.”
Cincinnati heads to Milwaukee after winning two of three from the Cubs. The Reds are coming off a hard-fought 8-6 win on Sunday when they built a four-run lead and then scored four times in the eighth inning.
“It says a lot,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I’m really happy the way that game went today. It could have gone the other way. It says a lot and shows a lot about our team, how we play as a team, the toughness that was shown there.”
Adrian Houser (2-2, 2.94 ERA) will be Milwaukee’s opener for the fourth time, though he owns a 9.00 ERA (eight runs, 15 hits) in that role. He last fulfilled the role Wednesday in a 4-2 loss to Seattle, when he allowed three runs on four hits in two innings while throwing 64 pitches.
Houser, who has made 23 of his 26 career appearances as a reliever, has thrown three scoreless innings in two career appearances against the Reds, both coming this year.
Tyler Mahle (2-8, 4.35) will start for Cincinnati and hopes to end a four-game winless skid. He is 0-3 with a 4.64 ERA in his last four outings since beating Washington on May 31. Mahle last pitched Tuesday in a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, when he continued to struggle on the road by allowing four runs and six hits in five innings.
Mahle is 0-1 with a 2.53 ERA in two career starts against Milwaukee.
Milwaukee leads the season series 6-3.
–Field Level Media