They could lose the lead completely—by more than just a percentage point for the first time since April—if they drop a fifth straight game Friday in the opener a weekend set with the Reds at Miller Park.
The Brewers (62-59) lost 8-0 to the surging St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday and were swept in a series at home - where they are an NL-best 39-23 - for the first time since Sept. 1-3 against Florida.
Despite having lost 13 of their last 18 contests - including a season-high four straight at home - the Brewers remain one half-game ahead of the second-place Chicago Cubs, who lost two of three to Cincinnati this week. The Reds (52-68), though, failed to help the Brewers further by falling 12-4 to the Cubs on Thursday.
“We still control our own destiny,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “We have to find a way to play better.”
The only time the Brewers have not been alone in first place over the past 3 1/2 months came on Aug. 2, when they were 58-51 and the Cubs were 57-50. Excluding that day, the last time Milwaukee didn’t have the lead was April 20.
The Brewers will fall out of the top spot if they lose this game and the Cubs win the opener of their four-game set with St. Louis at Wrigley Field on Friday. Chicago has failed to take advantage of Milwaukee’s recent struggles, losing 10 of 14, but the Cardinals have won five in a row to move within 2 1/2 games of first place in baseball’s weakest division.
Facing the fifth-place Reds might not be an easy way for the Brewers to snap their skid.
Cincinnati is batting .311 while averaging nearly 6 1/2 runs over its past 11 games, winning seven, and has hit .308 while going 4-2 against Milwaukee this season. This is the Reds’ first trip to Miller Park in 2007 after going 4-6 there last year.
Milwaukee was outscored 28-7 and posted an 8.33 ERA in the three-game set against the Cardinals. The Brewers have allowed 112 runs - 99 earned - in 14 games this month and haven’t received a win from a starting pitcher since Yovani Gallardo beat Philadelphia on Aug. 3.
“It’s one of those times,” Thursday’s losing pitcher Dave Bush said. “If one thing’s not wrong, it’s something else. That’s baseball. You go through periods like this. We’re in one. You have to find a way to scrap and claw and get out of it.”
Braun, though, is batting .533 (8-for-15) with two homers against the Reds.
Milwaukee’s Jeff Suppan (8-9, 4.90 ERA) will again try for his first win in almost two months when he takes the ball on Friday. Suppan allowed four runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings on Saturday, but didn’t get a decision in a 7-4 win at Houston.
The left-hander is 0-2 in nine starts since an 11-6 win over Kansas City on June 22. He is 2-1 with a 6.65 ERA in eight starts against the Reds. He allowed five runs in five innings of a 7-3 loss at Cincinnati on July 25.
Ken Griffey Jr. is 11-for-22 with five homers against Suppan, and is coming off a three-game set with the Cubs in which he went 7-for-14 with four RBIs.
Adam Dunn, who homered for the second straight game Thursday, is batting .571 (8-for-14) with a homer versus Suppan.
Bronson Arroyo (5-13, 4.63) looks to bounce back from his most recent loss for the Reds on Friday. He allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings of a 10-4 loss to San Diego on Sunday.
“I didn’t have great stuff,” Arroyo said. “I had OK command, but I had trouble getting good zip on my fastball.”
The right-hander is 4-3 with a 3.56 ERA in 10 games - seven starts - against the Brewers, but is making his first appearance against them this season.