The Milwaukee Brewers’ offense has picked a bad time to disappear, going into an offensive shell while losing five of its last seven games.
Now they’ll face an All-Star looking to prolong their offensive funk.
Milwaukee (82-61) leads the NL wild card race, but has been missing out on a prime chance to gain ground on the Central-leading Chicago Cubs as its bats have gone quiet. The Brewers have scored 16 total runs in their last seven games, with their worst effort coming on Sunday.
With a chance to take three of four from last-place San Diego, Milwaukee couldn’t manage a baserunner for 7 2-3 innings. Gabe Kapler broke up Chris Young’s perfect game with a solo homer in the eighth inning, but the damage was done as the Brewers ended up with two hits in a 10-1 loss.
“We didn’t swing the bats well and we didn’t pitch,” Kapler said. “There’s not much good to talk about today.”
Slumps from Milwaukee’s two biggest hitters have been the root of the offensive problems. Prince Fielder is hitting .132 (5-for-38) with two RBIs in his last 10 games, and RBI leader Ryan Braun (34 homers, 96 RBIs) hasn’t driven in a run in his last six games.
They’ll hope to fare better against Volquez (16-5, 3.12 ERA), and each has legitimate reason to believe he can. Braun is 4-for-6 in his career against the Cincinnati right-hander, while Fielder is 2-for-5 with a home run.
Volquez is 3-0 with a 3.94 ERA in his last five starts, and while he did not get a decision Wednesday against Pittsburgh after giving up four runs in seven innings, he did strike out a career-high 13.
“I think everything was good today,” Volquez told Cincinnati’s official Web site. “All my pitches were strikes.”
Volquez, who’s 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA against Milwaukee, limited the Brewers to two runs over seven innings while striking out 10 in an 8-2 win at Miller Park on July 12.
The Reds (64-79) did the Brewers a favor over the weekend, taking two of three from the Cubs in Cincinnati to keep Milwaukee’s division deficit at four games. It looked like Chicago was in line to win the series on Sunday, when it led 3-1 going to the bottom of the ninth, but Jolbert Cabrera capped a three-run rally with an RBI single to give the Reds a 4-3 win.
“I think it sends a message to the contending clubs that, if you’re going to play us, you’ll have to earn your wins,” said Cabrera, who hit a grand slam Saturday.
Milwaukee has split its 12 games against the Reds, but on Monday it’ll give the ball to a pitcher who got the best of Volquez last month. Dave Bush (9-1, 4.33) gave up just a run and three hits, striking out seven, over seven innings as he beat Volquez 8-1 in Cincinnati on Aug. 5.
That kicked off a stretch of four straight victories for Bush, a streak that ended on Wednesday when he gave up six first-inning runs in a 9-2 loss to the New York Mets.
Bush is 2-2 with a 5.87 ERA in his last five starts at Miller Park. He was 4-2 with a 2.49 ERA at home in his first nine outings.