With their starting rotation in disarray and reeling from another frustrating defeat, the Milwaukee Brewers are turning to their newest ace sooner than planned to help save their season from slipping away.
Pitching on three days’ rest, CC Sabathia looks to bounce back with Milwaukee while trying to help the fading Brewers avoid a third straight loss as they continue their road series with the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday afternoon.
Sabathia (9-1, 1.82 ERA) was originally scheduled to start Sunday’s series finale, but after Friday’s originally scheduled starter Seth McClung was forced to pitch two innings of relief in a 7-6, 12-inning loss to Chicago on Thursday, Jeff Suppan moved up to start Friday. With Ben Sheets hurt, McClung is likely to pitch Sunday.
Suppan lasted two innings after giving up five runs and two of Cincinnati’s seven home runs in an 11-2 loss Friday, one day after blowing a four-run lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to the Cubs.
Friday’s defeat dropped the Brewers (84-70) to 4-14 in September and two games back of new NL wild-card leader Philadelphia with eight remaining. Milwaukee held a 5 1/2-game lead in the wild-card race heading into the month.
“You’re running out of ballgames,” interim manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s going to come to that point. Hopefully you don’t have to win every single game, but it might get to that point here pretty quick.”
Sabathia returns to the mound after allowing four runs and nine hits in seven innings of a 5-4 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday for his first loss in 14 starts since being traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee.
“I needed to be better than I was,” said Sabathia, who is 0-1 with a 3.43 ERA in three starts this season.
The left-hander, though, is 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA in 10 starts versus Cincinnati and 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA against them in 2008.
Prince Fielder had two more hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games for the Brewers, who are hitting .222 while being outscored 100-56 in September. Fielder is hitting .459 (17-for-37) with four homers and 11 RBIs during his streak.
Milwaukee will face Cincinnati rookie Johnny Cueto (8-13, 4.68), who looks to avoid a third consecutive loss. Cueto allowed one run and four hits in five innings of a 2-1, 10-inning win at Arizona on Sunday.
The right-hander has a 2.70 ERA with no record in two April starts against Milwaukee and wouldn’t mind the same run support fellow rookie Ramon Ramirez received Friday.
On Friday, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce each homered twice and combined for seven RBIs, while Jerry Hairston Jr., Andy Phillips and Jolbert Cabrera also went deep as the Reds (71-82) won for the 13th time in 19 games while improving to 9-7 versus the Brewers this season.
“You always want to disrupt things,” Votto said of playing the spoiler role. “It’s always nice to mess up the wild card and the Central Division.”
Votto and Bruce each have 20 homers, making them the only pair of 20-homer rookies in the majors. Bruce has four homers in his last five games and five against the Brewers this season, while Votto has four against Milwaukee in 2008.