A pair of red-hot teams coming off four-game series sweeps open a three-game series Tuesday night as the Milwaukee Brewers visit the Cincinnati Reds in a National League Central showdown.
Jesse Winker continued his blazing start to 2021 on Sunday with his second three-homer game in two weeks as the Reds overcame their bullpen blowing a 7-0 lead in an 8-7 win in St. Louis. Winker heads into Tuesday’s series opener with a team-leading 17 home runs.
He’s the first player in franchise history with multiple three-homer games in a season and is second on the team in batting (.350), just .009 behind National League leader – and Reds teammate — Nick Castellanos, who saw his 21-game hitting streak end Sunday.
His slugging percentage of .665 leads all of baseball.
“Man, he’s special. He is something special,” said Wade Miley, who started Sunday’s game. “He’s fun to watch. The man gets his ‘A’ swing off a lot and does a lot of damage. He talks a lot after he hits homers, and he may talk more than I do in the dugout. Man, he sure is fun to be around.”
With Winker leading the way, Cincinnati swept the Cardinals in St. Louis for the first time since May 4-7, 1990, at the old Busch Stadium. The Reds have won seven of eight to pull to within a game of .500 at 28-29.
“That was a huge series win right there,” Winker said. “That was a lot of fun to be able to win that fourth game right there. It was a total team effort all series.”
Cincinnati starts Sonny Gray (1-4, 3.64), who will be trying to forget his last start, exactly a week earlier on the same mound against Philadelphia. On June 1, Gray survived only 4 2/3 innings, allowing six hits, two homers and four runs (three earned) in a 17-3 blowout loss to the Phillies. Gray did strike out eight and walk only one but labored, throwing 96 pitches and could not get through the fifth inning.
Gray left the game with the Reds trailing only 4-2. But Amir Garrett and the woeful Reds bullpen disintegrated, surrendering 13 runs over the final five innings, forcing two position players to help close out the game.
“It’s never fun,” Gray said. “I don’t envision myself starting games where position players pitch on our end. It sucks.”
The Brewers counter with Adrian Houser (3-5, 3.86), who will be making his 12th appearance and 11th start of the season, and his second start against the Reds. Houser has struggled in his career against Cincinnati, going 0-3 with a 6.84 ERA in eight appearances (five starts).
He’s allowed 20 earned runs in 26 1/3 innings against the Reds, including on May 21 when he allowed six earned runs in four innings and suffered the loss in a 9-4 Cincinnati win at Great American Ball Park, the night Winker had his first three-homer game of the season.
Houser’s last outing was in relief, allowing one run over five innings (98 pitches) vs. Detroit.
After sweeping Arizona four straight in Milwaukee over the weekend, the Brewers have won nine of 10 and 12 of 15 to move seven games over .500, matching their high point of the season and tying the Chicago Cubs atop the NL Central before Monday’s games.
Daniel Robertson homered in Sunday’s 2-0 win for Milwaukee, which turned things around by taking two of three in Cincinnati in late May.
“We’ve got tremendous pitching and these bats are coming to life here with this warm weather,” Robertson said. “It’s been fun.”
–Field Level Media