The Brewers (37-52) have not won three straight since a four-game run June 7-10, and last swept a series in late April. They'll look to keep their collective focus and accomplish that feat by handing the Reds a sixth consecutive loss at Miller Park on Wednesday. Milwaukee's latest victory came in Braun's return from missing a month with a thumb injury. The former MVP went 1 for 3, but his return was overshadowed amid word he could be facing a suspension for allegedly failing to cooperate with the investigation of the Biogenesis case.
Cincinnati's Mike Leake (7-4, 2.73 ERA) takes the mound looking to bounce back after he allowed four runs and two homers in five innings of a 4-2 loss to Seattle on Friday. He was 5-1 with a 1.31 ERA in his previous nine starts. Leake faces a Brewers lineup that sports a .259 average this season along with 85 HR throughout a balanced lineup that for the most part has been decimated by injuries and in several areas underachievement. Carlos Gomez (.305 13 41) is second on the team in hitting and leads the club in HR and RBI. Jean Segura (.320 11 36) has made quite a name for himself in his second season with some clutch hitting and impressive range through the infield. Norichika Aoki (.298 4 19) has also given the top of the lineup a lift and hopes to return Wednesday after suffering shoulder tightness last night. With all of the controversy surrounding Braun (.304 9 36), Jonathan Lucroy (.268 11 48) continues to provide a productive bat while protecting the middle of the lineup. Considering Rickie Weeks (.230 9 21) has been somewhat of a disappointment and an underachieving Aramis Ramirez (.271 5 26) was just placed on the DL with a left knee injury, the Brew Crew are going to have to depend on their everyday players if they hope for a strong second half.
Milwaukee counters with a struggling Johnny Hellweg (0-2 12.79) who could very well be pitching for his rotation and perhaps roster spot this afternoon. Hellweg hopes to rebound from Friday when he gave up seven runs - three earned - and seven hits with five walks in 3 2-3 innings of a 12-5 loss to the New York Mets in his second career start and first at home. The team has discussed bringing in a fresh arm or bat, but judging from where the rotation stands adding another pitcher almost seems essential. Hellweg faces a Reds lineup that while intriguing on the field and on paper, hasn't produced as consistently as most expected. The Reds are collectively hitting .250 with 90 HR averaging about 4.3 runs per game. Joey Votto (.318 15 40) leads Cincy (50-40) in hitting and is 6th overall in the NL despite his overall power numbers being slightly down from his career averages. Jay Bruce (.270 18 60) leads the Reds in HR and his tall strong plate stance intimidates opposing pitchers. Shin Soo Choo (.271 12 29) seems to be adapting to his leadoff spot in the lineup, and Brandon Phillips (.262 12 64) continues to provide timely hitting as evident by his team leading 64 RBI. Todd Frazier (.243 10 41) has been struggling away from the Great American Ballpark, but hopes to bring his average back up to respectability with a strong second half.
Considering the venue at Miller Park mostly favors the hitters in the corners we seem to be getting a fair price this afternoon. With temperatures to be right around 80 degrees or so it's likely the ball will be carrying more than in the first 2 games. Leake will be looking to get back to his dominant self earlier in the season and this gives Cincy a chance to right the ship offensively since Saturday when they scored 13 in a home win over Seattle. Also gives us an opportunity to stop our mini-losing streak. While we are still hitting a successful 63% of these plays, the ASB is fast approaching and we are well ahead of our 60-65 annual plays released during the season. Best of luck however you play!