The Milwaukee Brewers aim to punch their ticket to the postseason for the second straight year on Wednesday when they play the second contest of a three-game series against the host Cincinnati Reds.
Milwaukee (87-70) posted its fifth straight win and 16th in 18 outings with a 4-2 victory over Cincinnati (73-84) on Tuesday. The Brewers moved five games ahead of the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets for the final wild-card spot in the National League.
A Milwaukee win on Wednesday or losses by Chicago (versus Pittsburgh) and New York (against Miami) would clinch a playoff berth for the Brewers, although manager Craig Counsell admitted he has an eye on the NL Central title as well.
The Brewers reside 2 1/2 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, who fell 3-2 in a 19-inning marathon at Arizona on Tuesday.
“I think we’re scoreboard-watching now, and we’re seeing what goes on in those other games,” Counsell said. “We’ll see what goes on in Pittsburgh and see what goes on in Arizona, too.”
Another stellar September has paved the way for Milwaukee, which rode a sizzling final month of the season in 2018 all the way to within one win of a World Series appearance.
“They’ve recognized what’s at stake,” Counsell said. “I think the common theme in both cases is we were chasing something, and that’s lent some urgency to everything we’ve done. And I think our players have responded really well to that sense of urgency.”
Ryan Braun belted a solo homer among his two hits in the series opener to improve to 7-for-13 with four RBIs and four runs over the past four games.
Milwaukee right-hander Jordan Lyles (1-8, 4.17 ERA) will take the mound on Wednesday looking to build on his torrid stretch since being acquired from Pittsburgh.
Lyles has answered a disastrous run in which he posted an 0-6 record and a 9.58 ERA over his final eight starts with the Pirates by posting a 6-1 mark with a 2.35 ERA in his first 10 with the Brewers.
The 28-year-old fell to 4-2 with a 4.30 ERA in 16 career encounters (nine starts) against Cincinnati after allowing three runs on as many hits in four innings of an 11-6 setback on May 28. Lyles was pitching for Pittsburgh at the time.
Joey Votto is 7-for-16 with two homers and two doubles against Lyles while Derek Dietrich (4-for-7, homer) and Eugenio Suarez (3-for-5, two doubles) also have enjoyed success versus the hurler in smaller sample sizes.
Votto collected a pair of hits and scored on rookie Aristides Aquino’s RBI double in the first inning on Tuesday.
Cincinnati right-hander Tyler Mahle (2-11, 4.93 ERA) gets the nod on Wednesday after allowing just one run on one hit in six innings of a no-decision against the Cubs on Sept. 18 in his latest start.
Mahle, who is 0-6 in his past dozen outings overall, received a no-decision versus Milwaukee on July 1 after surrendering two homers and three runs total over six-plus innings. The 24-year-old sports an 0-1 mark with a 3.24 ERA in three career starts against the Brewers.
The Reds are dealing with a number of illnesses, with infielder Freddy Galvis, utility man Josh VanMeter and right-handers Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson and Keury Mella under the weather.
“I think mine was just like a cold,” Cincinnati manager David Bell said after he fell ill last month. “I don’t think I had it as bad as those guys.”
–Field Level Media