The Cincinnati Reds seem to be comfortably headed back to the postseason, but they're about to have a chance to become a major factor in the NL Central race.
Before beginning a 10-game stretch that includes seven meetings with St. Louis, the Reds will try to avoid overlooking the visiting Milwaukee Brewers and take this three-game set Sunday.
Cincinnati (74-56) has built a sizable cushion in the race for the NL's second wild-card spot, but the team is also 2 1/2 games back of Central co-leaders Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
The Reds are about to get a good chance to further tighten the chase as they open a three-game road series with the Cardinals on Monday.
They may have a tough task in Sunday's finale against Milwaukee (56-73). Greg Reynolds (0-1, 9.00 ERA) will make just his second major league start since 2011 in place of Tony Cingrani , who is nursing a strained lower back that has bothered him for the last few weeks.
The injury became a serious problem for the rookie left-hander on Tuesday, when he was forced to exit with two outs in the fourth.
"If something happened to him, we couldn't really afford a short outing to use my bullpen again, especially before we get to St. Louis," manager Dusty Baker said.
Reynolds, who arrived from Triple-A Louisville on Saturday, allowed five runs in five innings of a 5-3 loss at San Francisco on July 23, his first appearance since 2011 with Colorado.
"I think I'll be a little more comfortable this time, just having met everybody," Reynolds said. "In San Francisco, things were moving a little fast in that first inning and I was having a tough time slowing it down. I don't anticipate that will be an issue again.
"There was a lot of other stuff that went along with it, with family and friends coming out. This one will be a little more comfortable."
The right-hander has been superb with Louisville, going 12-3 with a 2.42 ERA in 23 games while tossing three complete games. He's compiled a 1.75 ERA over his last five contests - four starts.
Now, he'll try to help Cincinnati win for the 12th time in 15 home meetings with Milwaukee after a 6-3 victory Saturday.
The Brewers have dropped four of six games, and will turn to Marco Estrada (5-4, 4.80).
The right-hander didn't get a decision after allowing four runs and eight hits - two homers - in six innings of an 8-5 loss to the Cardinals on Monday.
That outing came at Miller Park, but Estrada has been far better on the road. He has a 2.88 ERA in eight starts away from home, allowing five homers in 50 innings, and a 7.43 ERA in seven outings in Milwaukee while serving up 12 blasts in 36 1-3.
He yielded one run and five hits over 11 innings in his two latest road outings after returning from a strained left hamstring that sidelined him for more than two months.
Estrada went 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts at Cincinnati last year, striking out 17 in 13 innings but also allowing four homers.
Two of those came off the bat of Jay Bruce , who Estrada will want to be especially careful with Sunday. Cincinnati's right fielder has homered off Estrada once in each of the last four games they've faced one another.
Bruce, however, hasn't gone deep in his past 15 games.
|August 15, 2013||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Sprained right knee|
|August 08, 2013||Rickie Weeks||15-Day DL||Left hamstring surgery - out for season|
|August 02, 2013||Tom Gorzelanny||Day-to-Day||Left elbow contusion|
|July 31, 2013||Yovani Gallardo||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|July 31, 2013||Yovani Gallardo||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|July 27, 2013||Jean Segura||Day-to-Day||Right forearm tightness|
|August 22, 2013||Jonathan Broxton||15-Day DL||Flexor mass strain, right forearm|
|August 21, 2013||Tony Cingrani||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|August 21, 2013||Jonathan Broxton||Day-to-Day||Left game - elbow|
|August 20, 2013||Tony Cingrani||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained lower back|
|August 08, 2013||Corky Miller||15-Day DL||Right quad contusion|
|August 07, 2013||Corky Miller||Day-to-Day||Right quad contusion|
CINCINNATI (AP) -- When Marco Estrada 's changeup is working, he'll get a lot of out-front swings that result in weak popups. His fastball seems a lot harder to hit, too.
The Cincinnati Reds rarely hit anything hard off Estrada on Sunday, managing only one single in seven shutout innings while the Milwaukee Brewers held on for a 3-1 victory. With the way Estrada was throwing, Caleb Gindl 's two-run homer was more than enough.
His best pitch made a big difference.
"The changeup kept working, so I kept throwing it," Estrada said. "I got away with a couple, but I kept it down most of the time."
The Brewers took two of three from the Reds, who remain right behind Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the NL Central race.
Estrada (6-4) gave up Shin-Soo Choo's leadoff single in the first inning, and then left the Reds swinging at nothing. He walked two, fanned a season-high nine and retired 10 batters on popups or fly balls - usually a risky thing in homer-friendly Great American Ball Park.
"He's one of those guys that if he makes his pitches, he'll have success," Reds outfielder Jay Bruce said. "If he doesn't, the ball gets up in the zone. After Choo got that hit, that was generally it. He pitched a really, really good game."
Jim Henderson gave up Joey Votto 's 20th homer in the ninth inning while picking up his 21st save in 24 chances.
Right-hander Greg Reynolds (0-2) made his second spot start, this time for injured left-hander Tony Cingrani . Reynolds did far better this time, limiting the Brewers to five hits in six innings, including Gindl's homer.
Jean Segura singled home another run in the seventh.
With the way Estrada was pitching, the Reds were fortunate just to hit the ball hard. Estrada fanned six in a row during one stretch. The Reds hit only one ball out of the infield from the second through the sixth innings, Zack Cozart 's routine flyout.
Estrada is on his best surge of the season. He was sidelined for two months with a strained left hamstring, and has dominated since his return on Aug. 6. He's 2-0 in four starts, allowing a total of only five earned runs.
"He had great command of his changeup," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He was throwing his curveball for strikes down in the zone and spotted his fastball well. When he's got his changeup going and his curve going, they have to think about it and he can get his fastball by them."
Gindl has shown a knack for noteworthy homers.
He became the first in Brewers history to have a game-ending homer as his first in the majors, a solo shot in the 13th inning for a 1-0 win over Miami on July 21. On Saturday night, he had the first pinch-hit homer of his career, also a solo shot during a 6-3 loss to the Reds.
He belted the fourth pitch he got from Reynolds over the wall in right for a 2-0 lead.
"It feels great," Gindl said. "It was nice to connect with another one."
It was Reynolds' second start this season for the Reds. Reynolds, who was Colorado's first-round pick in 2006, also was called up from Triple-A Louisville to pitch the second game of a doubleheader on July 23 in San Francisco. Reynolds pitched at Stanford and had a lot of friends and family on hand for the game, which added to his nerves.
The second time around, he was much calmer and a lot better.
NOTES: The Reds put Cingrani on the 15-day disabled list with a strained lower back. They also moved RH reliever Jonathan Broxton to the 60-day DL. Broxton had season-ending surgery Friday to repair a tear in his right forearm. ... Milwaukee's Khris Davis doubled, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Choo stole the 100th base of his career. ... Choo slid hard into 3B Aramis Ramirez 's left ankle while stealing another base. Ramirez grabbed his ankle in pain, but stayed in the game. ... Cincinnati Ballet principal dancer Cervilio Amador threw a ceremonial pitch - after a double spin in the air - to fellow Cuban Aroldis Chapman . ... The Brewers are off Monday before opening a series in Pittsburgh. The Reds head to St. Louis, with Mike Leake (11-5) facing Cardinals LHP Tyler Lyons (2-4).
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