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Brewers-Reds Preview

AP - Sports

Although two key hitters returned to the lineup, the MLB-best Milwaukee Brewers couldn't produce much scoring in a series-opening road loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

With Ryan Braun expected back later in the series, the Brewers hope to get the bats going Friday night when they try to avoid a season-high third straight defeat.

Jean Segura (bruised cheek) missed most of the previous four games, while Aramis Ramirez (elbow) missed parts of the prior three before both started in Thursday's 8-3 loss at Great American Ball Park. Ramirez went hitless in four at-bats to extend an 0-for-25 slide, but Segura had two singles and knocked in a run.

The short-handed Brewers (20-9) have struggled offensively of late, totaling 16 runs and hitting .219 while dropping three of five after an 18-6 start. They've lost back-to-back games for only the second time and haven't dropped more than two in a row.

However, there's more help arriving soon with Braun likely to rejoin the team over the weekend. The star outfielder, hitting a team-high .318, hasn't played since last Saturday due to a sore oblique.

"He has to be able to do some baseball activity," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We feel like whether it's Saturday or Sunday, we'll get him back in."

Wily Peralta (3-1, 2.56 ERA) hasn't had much room for error with Milwaukee providing him 12 runs in his last four starts. On Sunday, he gave up three runs and struck out six over seven innings in a 4-0 home loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Peralta, a right-hander with a 96-mph fastball, surrendered a home run for the fifth time in as many starts.

''If he's not going to be sharp and that's what he does, it's pretty good,'' Roenicke said.

Peralta is 1-3 with a 3.86 ERA in six career starts against the Reds (13-15), though he's received just six runs of support in those meetings. He did not receive a decision despite giving up one run over five innings in his last start in Cincinnati, a 6-3 loss Aug. 24.

Chris Heisey homered off Peralta in that game and has four hits in six at-bats lifetime in the matchup. He went 2 for 4 Thursday after replacing speedy leadoff man Billy Hamilton, who sprained knuckles on his left hand while making a diving catch.

''We're optimistic that he'll only miss a day or two, but we won't know for a day or two," manager Bryan Price said.

After hitting .212 with two home runs over their previous six games, the Reds finished with 12 hits - three homers - and snapped a 3-all tie with a five-run eighth inning en route to their second win in six contests.

Cincinnati starter Mike Leake (2-2, 3.82) hopes to get back on track after surrendering four runs and a career high-tying three homers over seven innings in Saturday's 4-1 loss at Atlanta.

''Just pitches left where they could hit it,'' said Leake, who settled in to retire 11 of the last 14 batters. "Mistakes.''

The right-hander also has struggled with the long ball against the Brewers, going 1-0 with a 4.55 ERA while allowing seven homers in five career starts. Rickie Weeks is 5 for 12 with two homers in the matchup, though Ramirez has gone 3 for 24.

The Reds have won 14 of the last 19 meetings in Cincinnati.

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