Host Brewers, Reds battle for top of NL Central

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The surging Cincinnati Reds will have a chance to regain the top spot in the National League Central when they open a three-game series at front-running Milwaukee on Monday

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Right-hander Colin Rea (5-4, 4.64 ERA) starts for the Brewers, while the Reds counter with right-hander Graham Ashcraft (5-7, 5.77)

Cincinnati has won five straight to pull within a half-game of the Brewers. Milwaukee won two of three at home against the Reds going into the All-Star break, then opened the second half with a three-game sweep at Cincinnati

“We know what we’re up against,” Reds manager David Bell said. “They have a good team, but there’s no question our players want that opportunity. They want to be in that moment, they want to play the best teams. They’ve worked hard to put us in a situation where these games are important.

The Reds completed a three-game sweep at home of Arizona with a 7-3 victory Sunday behind homers from rookie sensation Elly De La Cruz and Nick Senzel

Milwaukee lost to visiting Atlanta 4-2 on Sunday in the rubber game of the series between divisional leaders when Ozzie Albies hit a three-run homer in the eighth off Elvis Peguero, snapping the Brewers bullpen’s consecutive scoreless innings streak at 28 2/3

“That’s a big number. They’ve been a big reason why we’re at where we are,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “The load that we’ve got to point to, we’re giving them a one-run lead and scoring two runs, regardless of what happens the rest of the game, that’s probably not going to win you a lot of games.

The Brewers, who were 6-0-1 in their previous seven series, dropped to 9-35 when scoring three runs or fewer, compared with 46-10 when scoring at least four runs

Ashcraft, making his sixth start since coming off the injured list, appears to be back on track after a rough stretch. He was 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA over his first six starts, then 1-6 with a 12.82 ERA over the next eight games. In his last four outings, he is 2-1 with a 1.82 ERA.

Ashcraft is 0-4 with an 8.03 ERA in five career starts vs. Milwaukee, including 0-2 this season, allowing 11 earned runs in 10 innings.

Milwaukee is 10-6 in the games started by Rea, who was called up in mid-April to bolster the Brewers‘ injury-riddled rotation

In his last start, Rea allowed three runs, two earned, in five innings but did not get the decision in a 5-3 win at Philadelphia.

Rea is 4-0 with a 6.20 ERA in five career games, including four starts against the Reds. He is 1-0 with a 7.45 ERA in two starts this season, giving up eight earned runs in 9 2/3 innings

The Brewers received a scare when second baseman Brice Turang collided with right fielder Sal Frelick, who was playing in his second game, on a shallow flyout in the seventh inning

“We were trying to get an out, we got an out and move to the next inning,” Turang said. “I’m glad he’s OK, I’m glad I’m OK.”

Counsell said it’s likely that both players will be available on Monday.

“They obviously continued in the game,” Counsell said. “They’re a little sore, so I would say we’re optimistic for tomorrow, but we’ll have to definitely check on them tomorrow.”

–Field Level Media

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