Reds, Brewers return to action with pivotal series

One of the tight division races in baseball resumes Friday when the Milwaukee Brewers visit the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a three-game weekend series

The two teams played three games in Milwaukee right before the All-Star break, with the Brewers claiming two of three

This three-game set takes on greater significance as Cincinnati leads Milwaukee by one game in the National League Central.

The Brewers have gotten the better of the Reds so far this season, winning five of the seven previous meetings. The two teams will meet six more times, wrapping up their season series with three in Milwaukee July 24-26

The Reds are MLB’s biggest surprise team of 2023, rebounding from just the second 100-loss season in franchise history to win 50 games by the break and sit atop the division over the favored Brewers. No team has ever won its division the year after losing 100 games

Winners of 21 of 27 entering the break, the Reds have been sparked by rookies Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain, Spencer Steer and pitcher Andrew Abbott. De La Cruz stole three bases on two pitches in last Saturday’s 8-5 Cincinnati win

The crowds have returned to Great American Ball Park with the rise of the rookie-driven Reds. The Reds sold out all three home games against Atlanta in mid-June and had crowds over 30,000 for each of their games against San Diego in the last weekend of June

“There is no doubt that Cincinnati loves its baseball, no doubt,” outfielder TJ Friedl said. “But it was just giving them a reason to come. To stand in center field and look at that, I got goosebumps. We did our part, and the city showed up.”

Joey Votto, who turns 40 on Sept. 10, has returned from shoulder and biceps surgery and has hit seven homers in 17 games.

“The culture in the clubhouse, I’ve been witness to it,” Votto said. “And things are changing for the best. It’s a new generation. It’s a new era in baseball.”

Milwaukee ace and All-Star pitcher Corbin Burnes (7-5, 3.94 ERA) will start the series opener Friday against Cincinnati. Burnes has a pair of quality starts against Cincinnati in his previous two outings, including on July 7 when he held the Reds to three runs on two hits over six innings in a 7-3 Milwaukee win

Burnes is 3-1 with a 2.80 ERA in 16 career appearances against Cincinnati, including six starts.

Burnes became just the fifth player in Brewers history to be named to three straight All-Star games, joining Don Money, Dan Plesac, Ryan Braun and Josh Hader. But the last-minute replacement for Spencer Strider did not pitch in Tuesday’s game in Seattle

“That’s kind of crazy,” Burnes said. “It’s a pretty good list to be on. Obviously, there have been guys that have been All-Stars multiple times. But to do it three times in three straight years, I think is pretty cool. To join that list of other great players is also special.”

The Reds counter with another right-hander in Graham Ashcraft (4-6, 6.28), making his team-leading 17th start of 2023. In his last start on July 5 in Washington, Ashcraft snapped a personal three-game skid and won for the first time since May 28, scattering seven hits and one run over six innings in Cincinnati’s 9-2 win

Ashcraft is winless in four career starts against Milwaukee, going 0-3 with 10.13 ERA. He was tagged for a career-worst 10 runs — all earned — on nine hits over four innings in a 10-8 Milwaukee win on June 3 in Cincinnati.

–Field Level Media

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