The Brewers (74-71) have been battling the Chicago Cubs for first place in the NL Central since the start of August as they seek their first division title since winning the AL East in 1982. Milwaukee finished fourth in the Central a year ago, and is one victory away from matching its win total from 2006.
The Brewers have won seven of 11 this month and look to take advantage of playing 10 of their final 17 games at Miller Park, where they have an NL-best 45-26 home record.
They have won six of their last eight at home, but dropped two of three to the Reds at Miller Park Aug. 17-19. Cincinnati has won seven of 12 over Milwaukee this season.
The Brewers took two of three at Cincinnati last weekend before losing two of three at Pittsburgh. On Wednesday against the Pirates, Milwaukee came back from a four-run deficit to tie the game at 4 in the eighth, but allowed three runs in the bottom of the inning and lost 7-4.
“We had the momentum going and hopefully you hold them and continue the momentum, and it just didn’t happen,” catcher Damian Miller said.
“We’ve got to play hard for the next few weeks and if it’s supposed to happen, it’s supposed to happen. We’re continuing to do things the right way. We’re fighting back when we’re behind and playing the game the right way and, hopefully, it will work out for us.”
Ben Sheets (12-4, 3.54 ERA) makes his second straight start against the Reds when he takes the hill in Friday’s series opener.
On Sunday at Great American Ball Park, Sheets gave up five runs, six hits and three walks in six innings of a 10-5 victory. He is 7-3 with a 2.69 ERA in 14 career starts against Cincinnati.
The right-hander improved to 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts after missing 1 1/2 months with a sprain in his right middle finger. This will be Sheets’ second start at Miller Park since coming off the disabled list, and he is 6-1 with a 2.80 ERA in 11 home starts this season.
All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder has hit safely in all 11 games in September, batting .410 (16-for-39) with five home runs and nine RBIs during that stretch. Fielder, the NL leader with 44 home runs, homered twice against the Reds last weekend and is hitting .333 (15-for-45) with three home runs and eight RBIs in 12 games against them this season.
Ryan Braun, an NL Rookie of the Year candidate, is batting .333 (13-for-39) with five homers and eight RBIs in 10 games against the Reds.
Cincinnati (67-79) is coming off a three-game sweep of St. Louis, capped by a 5-4 victory Thursday afternoon.
Joey Votto went 3-for-4 with a two-run double, and is batting .455 (10-for-22) with two homers and eight RBIs in eight games since being called up from Triple-A Louisville Sept. 4. He was 4-for-10 with a homer and five RBIs against Milwaukee last weekend.
Tom Shearn (2-0, 4.19) makes his fourth career start when he takes the ball Friday.
Shearn’s last outing came against the Brewers on Sunday, when he entered in the first inning to take over for Phil Dumatrait, who allowed three consecutive homers to open the game. Shearn gave up three runs and four hits - including a homer to Braun - in two innings of relief, but did not factor in the decision.
In his last start on Sept. 5, the 30-year-old rookie right-hander allowed three hits in six innings of a 7-0 win over the New York Mets.