Sitting in fourth place in the NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers have their work cut out if they hope to climb back into the mix.
Yovani Gallardo has certainly done his part of late.
Gallardo tries to win a season-best third consecutive start Saturday night as the visiting Brewers continue a three-game set with the division-leading Cincinnati Reds .
While Gallardo (8-6, 3.59 ERA) was inconsistent over the first two months of the season, he's recently picked up the pace. The right-hander has gone 4-1 with a 2.18 ERA over his last seven outings, allowing three runs or fewer in each.
Gallardo has been especially dominant in three July outings, allowing a combined two runs in 19 2-3 innings. He struck out a career-high 14 on Sunday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball during a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh.
"Real good game," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Downhill with his fastball, life on it, command. Curveballs were good, cutters were good. That's the type of game that we get excited about when 'Yo' throws like that."
Gallardo has experienced mixed results against the Reds (53-40), going 4-4 with a 4.95 ERA over 13 starts. Aside from allowing eight runs over five-plus innings during an 8-4 loss at Cincinnati on Aug. 31, 2010, Gallardo has recorded a 2.27 ERA in his other seven outings at Great American Ball Park.
Gallardo will need to be wary of Jay Bruce , who is 10 for 23 (.435) with a pair of home runs in their matchups. Bruce entered Friday in an 0-for-18 slump before going 2 for 3 with his 19th homer in Cincinnati's series-opening 3-1 win.
The slugging right fielder has given Milwaukee (44-48) fits over the course of his career, hitting .305 with 21 homers - his most against any opponent - and 46 RBIs in 54 matchups.
The Reds have won nine of 11 thanks largely to compiling a 2.61 ERA. Cincinnati is a season-high 13 games above .500 and remains one-half game ahead of second-place Pittsburgh in the division.
The Brewers trail the Reds by 8 1/2 games and likely can't afford to fall much further behind.
"We need these games, especially against this team," Friday's losing pitcher Marco Estrada said. "They're in first place and we're trying to catch up."
Milwaukee will try to make up some ground when it faces Bronson Arroyo (4-6, 4.03), who lasted a season-low three innings during Monday's 5-3 loss to Arizona - his first appearance since the All-Star break. The right-hander gave up all five runs and eight hits, dropping to 0-2 with a 4.44 ERA in eight starts at home.
"I've definitely never been a guy that enjoys days off," he told the team's official website. "... For whatever reason, I didn't have good stuff. I was humping up for 84-85 mph fastballs and that hasn't really happened to me all year. You just hope you can dial it in next time out and have better, crisper stuff."
Arroyo has held his own versus the Brewers of late, going 4-2 with a 2.73 ERA while limiting them to a .196 average over his last eight starts. His 12 victories over Milwaukee are tied for his most against any opponent.
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||15-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|June 02, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left quadricep|
|May 31, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Tight Achilles|
|May 28, 2012||Jonathan Lucroy||15-Day DL||Fractured right hand, out 4-6 weeks|
|May 26, 2012||Cesar Izturis||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Torn meniscus, left knee - out 3-4 weeks|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||15-Day DL||Torn meniscus, left knee|
|June 30, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee inflammation|
|June 28, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Head|
|June 12, 2012||Zack Cozart||Day-to-Day||Illness|
|June 06, 2012||Drew Stubbs||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips hit homers. Jay Bruce gets two more hits. The starting pitcher holds an early lead.
The Cincinnati Reds are getting the knack of winning without Joey Votto .
Ludwick and Phillips each hit a two-run homer Saturday night, powering Cincinnati to a 6-2 victory over the fading Milwaukee Brewers that extended the Reds' surge without their dangerous first baseman.
The NL Central leaders have gone 4-2 since Votto learned he needed surgery for torn knee cartilage, replacing their top hitter through a combined effort.
"One of the reasons I signed here was how deep this lineup is," Ludwick said. "It's a really deep lineup, especially when everybody's hitting. I don't think everybody's hitting yet. When we get everybody hitting one through eight, it's going to be pretty."
It's pretty good as is. The Reds have won 10 of 12 overall, moving a season-high 14 games over .500.
Ludwick homered as part of a four-run first inning off Yovani Gallardo (8-7). Phillips homered in the eighth off Jose Veras , dropping the defending division champion Brewers a season-high 9 1/2 games out.
Milwaukee came to town needing a solid series to stay in contention. Instead, the Brewers have gotten knocked out of it.
"It's kind of the big blow, especially to the situation we're in," Gallardo said. "I think every game coming in here was a must-win. Unfortunately, we've lost the first two."
The Reds, who won the division in 2010, are 6-2 against the Brewers this season.
Bronson Arroyo (5-6) rebounded from his shortest start of the season, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings.
The Reds need an offense that's ranked in the middle of the NL to pick it up while Votto recovers from knee surgery, a process that will take three to four weeks. So far, they've pulled it off.
"Every day, we depend on somebody else," manager Dusty Baker said. "One of these days, we're going to get everybody out there. We've just got to keep it going. Joey's looking pretty good. The crutches are gone and the doctors say he's progressing well."
Bruce singled home a run in the first inning, stole a base and scored on Scott Rolen 's sacrifice fly. Ludwick followed with a two-run homer into the upper deck in left field, making it 74 consecutive games at Great American Ball Park with a homer. It's the longest streak since Coors Field had 80 games with a homer in 2002-03, according to STATS LLC.
Phillips' homer gave him seven RBIs in the last three games.
Gallardo was 4-1 in his last seven starts and was coming off one of his best games. He fanned a career-high 14 during a 4-1 win over the Pirates on Sunday. The right-hander struck out only one on Saturday while allowing four runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Arroyo was coming off his worst start of the season. He lasted only three innings in a 5-3 loss to Arizona on Monday, unable to get his fastball moving or his control in order after the All-Star break layoff.
The Brewers were the perfect team for a rebound. Arroyo took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against Milwaukee on June 26 at Great American before settling for no decision in a 4-3 win. He wasn't as dominating this time, but was good enough, giving up a pair of runs and five hits in six innings.
He reminded himself of how well he did against Milwaukee the last time.
"I watched video today," Arroyo said. "You try to forget past games, but I knew I'd had a good outing against somebody, and as I was watching the video, I was thinking, `There aren't many hits.' This ballclub is a comfortable lineup for me. It's comfortable enough that I feel like I can go deep into each game."
Corey Hart singled home a run in the fourth. Milwaukee scored another in the sixth when Aramis Ramirez grounded into a double play.
NOTES: The crowd of 40,090 was the Reds' ninth sellout of the season. ... The four runs allowed by Gallardo in the first inning were more than he'd allowed in any of his last seven starts. ... Rickie Weeks grounded out twice against Arroyo, leaving him 6 for 41 career against the right-hander with 14 strikeouts. ... Rolen had his first triple of the season. ... Reds reliever Jose Arredondo took Jeff Bianchi 's liner off his right forearm in the seventh. He stayed in the game and faced one more batter before leaving. ... Bruce improved to 12 for 26 career off Gallardo.
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