The hottest team in the majors for much of the past month, the Cincinnati Reds are suddenly on the verge of matching their longest losing streak of the season.
Fortunately for them, they may have the right man on the mound Wednesday to stop the slide.
The Reds (66-44) went 22-3 from July 6-Aug. 4, but they've matched that loss total in the last three days. After dropping the finale of a weekend home series against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati has lost the first two games of this set including a 3-1 defeat Tuesday.
Now, the Reds are one loss from matching their season-worst skid from June 18-22.
"We'll get it together and make another nice run," said manager Dusty Baker , whose club still holds a 3 1/2-game NL Central lead over the Pirates.
Three days after the final defeat of the June losing streak, Latos (10-3, 3.94 ERA) began to turn around his season with a dominant performance against the Brewers (50-59). The right-hander pitched his first complete game of 2012, allowing a home run by Norichika Aoki and three other hits while striking out a career-high 13 in the Reds' 3-1 home win.
Starting with that contest, Latos has gone 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA in his last eight starts - yielding two runs or fewer in seven of them - after posting a 5.20 ERA in his first 14. He's won his last three outings, putting him in position to win four straight starts for the first time since July 24-Aug. 8, 2009, as a rookie for San Diego.
Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks , who doubled and scored a run Tuesday, is batting .395 with four doubles and three homers over his last 13 games. He may be the Brewers' best bet to do some damage against Latos, as he's 5 for 10 with two homers and a double in their matchups.
Ryan Braun is 0 for 8 with three strikeouts - all coming in the June 25 loss.
The Brewers are seeking their second consecutive three-game sweep at home after beating Houston last week. If they pull it off, five of their last six overall series will have been sweeps, though they were on the wrong end of three on the road.
Milwaukee has totaled 40 runs and 12 homers during its five-game home winning streak, sandwiched around three weekend losses at St. Louis in which the Brewers scored four times and failed to homer.
"I know when you like hitting in your ballpark and you have confidence coming into the game, it makes a difference," manager Ron Roenicke told the team's official website. "You're more patient at the plate, you know you just have to square up balls and they're going to carry well."
Wolf's 11 career wins over the Reds are his second-most against any opponent, but Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce is 9 for 22 (.409) with two homers and two doubles off him.
The left-hander has dropped his last two outings overall, and Milwaukee is 6-15 when he starts this year. He allowed five runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings of Friday's 9-3 loss to the Cardinals and is now trying to avoid losing three consecutive starts for the first time since June 17-July 2, 2008, when he dropped four in a row for the Padres.
|August 01, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 01, 2012||Wilson Valdez||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff neck|
|July 31, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left calf|
|July 31, 2012||Bill Bray||15-Day DL||Lumbar muscle strain|
|July 31, 2012||Devin Mesoraco||Day-to-Day||Left game - dizziness|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Torn meniscus, left knee - out 3-4 weeks|
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-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|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker decided to pitch to Ryan Braun and it cost the Reds the game.
Braun snapped a 0-for-18 slump with an RBI double in the eighth inning, lifting the Brewers to a three-game sweep of Cincinnati with a 3-2 win Wednesday.
"You're in a situation where you've got to face Braun or Aramis Ramirez ," Baker said. "Aramis is one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now. So we chose to pitch to Braun and he blooped it in front of (Chris) Heisey out there."
Jonathan Broxton (1-1) started the eighth with the Reds leading 2-1. He retired the first two batters before an infield single by Norichka Aoki. With Carlos Gomez up to bat, Aoki stole second and took third on catcher Dioner Navarro 's throwing error. Gomez hit a soft liner over the outstretched glove of shortstop Wilson Valdez and Aoki scored to tie the game.
Gomez stole second and Braun followed with a hit that fell in front of the Reds' center fielder.
"There aren't too many better ways than to help your team win a game," Braun said. "Certainly not the first time I've struggled; it won't be the last. But it's never enjoyable when you go through something like that. It's always nice to get a hit. It's that much more enjoyable when it happens in a victory and a big situation."
Braun came in batting .304 but had struggled at the plate in the three-game series against St. Louis and was hitless against Cincinnati. Ramirez has seen his batting average climb to .295 and leads the NL in extra base hits (54) and doubles (37).
Broxton had given up only three hits and no earned runs in his last four outings.
"Hey, we finally got some breaks," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Nori's little dribbler, Gomey's bloop over short, Braunie's bloop before (Heisey). We got some breaks today."
John Axford (4-6) pitched the eighth for the win and Jim Henderson got his second career save in as many days.
The Reds' fourth straight loss matched their season-worst set June 18-22. The NL Central leaders remained three games ahead of Pittsburgh, which plays Wednesday night.
The Brewers' rally cost Mat Latos a chance at his fourth consecutive victory.
"Latos threw a great ball game," Baker said. "He had had enough. He was spent at that time."
Latos retired 16 of the first 19 batters he faced before surrendering Gomez's solo shot in the sixth. He regrouped and retired the next five. Latos allowed three hits, one walk and had eight strikeouts over seven innings. He's now allowed one earned run and seven hits in his last two starts, a span of 14 1-3 innings.
Latos knew that the team has a great bullpen, but finishing the game was a thought, too.
"I felt all right, but I figured we had a good bullpen," Latos said after throwing 97 pitches, 67 for strikes. "We have fresh arms in the bullpen. They'd come in and get the job done."
Navarro hit a two-run homer in the third off Milwaukee starter Randy Wolf .
Miguel Cairo led off with a walk before Navarro collected his first hit in six at-bats since being promoted from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 1. He replaced fellow catcher Devin Mesoraco , who went on the seven-day concussion disabled list.
Wolf came in 11-4 against the Reds, his second-most career wins against any opponent, but his mistake to Navarro cost him. The left-hander, who has only one win in his last eight decisions, lost his third consecutive start.
He went six innings, allowing six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
Cincinnati had a big chance to pad the lead in the fifth, but came up empty on a great play by Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez . The bases were loaded and two outs when Navarro hit a hard grounder that Ramirez snared with a diving stab and then threw from his knees to end the threat.
"One of the keys to the ball game was in the sixth inning," Baker said. "We had the bases loaded and one out and didn't get anything. Then Aramis saved them. That ball down the line that's at least two runs. That shows the importance of defense and it's a game of inches."
It was Milwaukee's third consecutive win over Cincinnati and sixth straight victory at home.
NOTES: Depending on how Manny Parra responds after throwing a simulated game, he'd accompany the Brewers on their six-game road trip which starts Friday in Houston. The left-hander hasn't pitched since July 24 since experiencing soreness in his left shoulder. ... Baker said that Mesoraco would probably catch two of the upcoming four games at Chicago. ... Jean Segura 's infield single in the Brewers fifth was the rookie's first hit. He was recalled from Double-A Huntsville and made his major-league debut at shortstop on Monday. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels along with two minor-league pitchers for Zack Greinke on July 27.