Having regained a share of first place on a day off, the Milwaukee Brewers know they must be better away from home if they want to stay there.
The Brewers begin a stretch in which they will play 13 of 16 games on the road as they open a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday.
Milwaukee (71-68) was idle Thursday as it moved into a tie with Chicago atop the NL Central thanks to the Cubs’ 7-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is the first time the Brewers have been in first place since Aug. 21.
The Brewers had lost 12 of 16 before completing a 5-1 homestand with a 14-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday. Milwaukee, though, plays its next six games on the road, and the club has gone 8-21 away from home since July 2, including losses in six of its last seven.
“If we want to make the playoffs, then we have to play better on the road,” outfielder Corey Hart told Milwaukee’s official Web site.
While they have the NL’s second-worst road record (26-42) behind Houston (26-45), the Brewers hope to benefit from a favorable schedule over the next two weeks. This road trip includes three games apiece at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and they return home for three more games against the Reds before a three-game set at Houston.
Those three sub-.500 teams are separated by two games at the bottom of the Central.
“If you don’t beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, you’re not going to get very far,” Milwaukee center fielder Bill Hall said.
The Brewers, though, have not fared well against the Reds (63-77) this season, losing six of nine meetings. That record includes losses in four of six games at Cincinnati.
The Reds snapped a five-game losing streak with a 7-0 win over the New York Mets on Wednesday. Joey Votto homered in his first major league at-bat in the second inning, and also had a pair of singles.
“First of all, I hope Joey Votto doesn’t think it’s going to be that easy,” said interim manager Pete Mackanin. “Or, maybe it will be that easy.”
Cincinnati is three games into a nine-game homestand, which concludes with a three-game series against the Cardinals. The Reds are 34-35 at home this season, but have won seven of their last nine at Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati will send Bronson Arroyo (7-14, 4.43 ERA) to the mound Friday. Arroyo has allowed three runs or fewer in four consecutive starts. He lost for the first time in that stretch on Sunday, giving up three runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings in a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals.
Arroyo is 5-3 with a 3.58 ERA in eight starts and three relief appearances versus the Brewers. He won his only outing against them this year, giving up three runs and striking out seven in 7 1-3 innings in an 8-3 victory on Aug. 17.
Dave Bush (11-9, 4.83 ERA) counters for Milwaukee looking to match his career high in wins, set last season.
He’s pitched well recently, posting a 3.55 ERA in his last four starts and going at least six innings in each outing. Bush beat Pittsburgh on Saturday as he allowed one run and four hits in six innings of a 12-3 win.
The Brewers, though, have lost all four starts he’s made at Cincinnati as Bush has gone 0-1 with a 10.90 ERA. Both of his starts versus the Reds this year came on the road and he did not get a decision either time, allowing eight runs and 15 hits in 10 1-3 innings.