If the Milwaukee Brewers are going to make a run at the NL Central title, the next 10 games could be key.
The Brewers open the first of three consecutive series against last-place teams Monday night when they visit the lowly Cincinnati Reds.
The Brewers (62-50) are second in the Central, five games behind first-place Chicago, which swept them in a four-game series last week.
Milwaukee has a chance to make up some of that ground with three games against the Reds (51-61) before hosting a four-game series with Washington and three contests against San Diego. All three squads occupy the bottom of their respective NL divisions.
The Brewers have won four of nine games against Cincinnati, but took a three-game series there from April 18-20.
They dropped a game in the standings Sunday, losing 5-0 at Atlanta that snapped a franchise record-tying nine-game road winning streak.
Ryan Braun will try to help Milwaukee rebound after he went 1-for-12 (.083) with an RBI in the three-game series against the Braves. He hit .385 with nine homers and 23 RBIs in the previous 24 games.
The left fielder, though, has struggled in nine matchups with Cincinnati this season, going 5-for-35 (.143) with two solo homers.
The Brewers will give the ball to Manny Parra (9-4, 3.93), who is looking to avoid a third consecutive loss.
The left-hander has dropped his last two starts with a 6.35 ERA after going 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his previous 14 games—13 starts.
He struggled through 5 1-3 innings Wednesday, giving up five runs and eight hits with five strikeouts, four walks and a wild pitch that scored a run in a 7-2 loss to the Cubs.
“I made some good pitches, and they hit them,” Parra told the Brewers’ official Web site. “I made some bad pitches and they hit those, too.”
Parra didn’t get a decision in his only meeting with the Reds on July 11, allowing five runs and six hits with six strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-5 loss.
The Reds, losers of eight of their last nine, are coming off a three-game road sweep at the hands of the Nationals, capped by Sunday’s 4-2 loss.
Prior to that game, Cincinnati held a 20-minute players-only meeting. The team promptly allowed four runs in the top of the first while committing its 85th error to rank among the worst defensive clubs in baseball.
“It’s very frustrating because we’re making stupid mistakes,” said Reds left fielder Adam Dunn, whose first-inning error allowed a run to score. “We’re beating ourselves.”
The Reds hope Bronson Arroyo (9-8, 5.74) can rebound from a subpar outing.
The right-hander was hit hard Tuesday, allowing six runs and eight hits— including two homers—in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-2 loss at Houston. That performance came after he won five consecutive games with a 3.09 ERA.
Arroyo, though, lost his last matchup against the Brewers by allowing five runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 5-2 defeat on April 18 at Great American Ball Park. He’s 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA in four starts against them there.