The Milwaukee Brewers may be losing sight of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, but they also need to keep sight of maintaining their lead in the wild-card race ahead of a crucial series this weekend.
The Brewers try to bounce back from a tough loss as they continue a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday at Miller Park.
Given a chance to make up ground on the idle Cubs in the Central, the Brewers (82-62) frittered away that opportunity by squandering a two-run lead in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss Monday. Closer Salomon Torres blew a save for the seventh time in 33 opportunities for Milwaukee, which is 3 1/2 games behind Chicago but now only three games ahead of Philadelphia in the wild-card chase.
Along with the Cubs, the Brewers have been scuffling recently, losing six of their last eight games. Milwaukee goes to Philadelphia for a pivotal four-game series Thursday that could break open the race—or tighten it considerably and bring back memories of the Brewers’ late-season collapse last year that left them out of the playoffs.
“If this was the last game of the season and prevented us from going to the playoffs then everybody would be crying. But, now, we still have time,” Torres insisted. “We can’t let this bother us. As much as we wanted to come out on top, it didn’t happen.”
Jeff Suppan (10-8, 4.56 ERA) looks to get himself and Milwaukee back on track and win for the sixth time in his last seven decisions. The right-hander had a personal five-game winning streak snapped Thursday, when he was reached for five runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-2 defeat to San Diego.
Suppan has pitched well against the Reds this season, going 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in three starts. The win came in his most recent outing Aug. 6, yielding three runs in seven innings of a 6-3 victory. Suppan is 4-2 with a 5.21 ERA in 14 lifetime starts versus the Reds.
For the Reds (65-79), it was the second straight game they rallied to win with three ninth-inning runs, doing so against the Cubs on Sunday. Jeff Keppinger’s two-run double Monday capped the surge for Cincinnati, which has two opportunities to claim its third series win of year at Miller Park, where they are 5-2 in 2008.
“They were scuffling during the night, but they had some big hits at the end,” Reds manager Dusty Baker told the team’s official Web site, referring to Keppinger and Corey Patterson, who had an RBI single to pull the Reds within 4-3. “We got a big, big hit out of Keppinger.”
Ramon Ramirez (0-0, 2.70) makes his second major league start and third overall appearance for the Reds. The right-hander pitched three hitless innings in relief Thursday against Pittsburgh, striking out two. His lone start came Aug. 30, as he gave up three runs and five hits—including two homers—in seven innings against San Francisco and left without a decision in Cincinnati’s 7-6 win.
Francisco Cordero, who left the Brewers for the Reds in the offseason, notched his fourth save against his former team this year, including his third at Miller Park. He has not been scored upon in seven appearances in 2008 versus the Brewers, spanning 6 1-3 innings.