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Reds-Brewers Preview

AP - Sports

Like the Cincinnati Reds in 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers are having some difficulty in the early stages of their NL Central title defense.

The injury-plagued Brewers will try to get headed in the right direction during their first matchup with the Reds this season, a three-game series that opens Monday night at Miller Park.

Milwaukee claimed its first division title since 1982 last season by winning a franchise-record 96 games, but victories haven't come as often so far during this campaign.

The Brewers (12-16) went 3-6 on their nine-game road trip that ended with back-to-back losses to San Francisco. Even worse, they put more players on the disabled list during their stay in northern California.

A strained left hamstring put outfielder Carlos Gomez on the DL before a 4-3 loss in 11 innings Sunday. Alex Gonzalez was placed there Saturday for a right knee injury, joining first baseman Mat Gamel (torn right ACL) and pitchers Chris Narveson (shoulder) and Brandon Kintzler (forearm).

"It's not easy, but this game's not supposed to be easy. Life isn't easy. We have no choice but to continue to move forward," said reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun, who is also dealing with a tight right Achilles.

While they may not have experienced the same injury issues, the Reds (14-13) know just how difficult it is to try to repeat as division champs. Cincinnati finished 91-71 in 2010 while winning its first title in 15 years but opened 14-15 the following season en route to a 79-83 finish.

A slow start at the plate has hampered the Reds' attempt to return to contention, but they have made some strides lately by hitting .260 during a 10-5 stretch after batting .211 in their first 12 games.

They batted .291 while winning two of three games in Pittsburgh this weekend, and Drew Stubbs provided three of his team's 10 hits in a 5-0 victory Sunday, including a two-run homer.

"I think that we're a pretty resilient team," outfielder Jay Bruce told the team's website. "We understand how good we are, and when we play well, we can play with anybody and beat anyone."

Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 3.03 ERA) could use a little more help from his teammates after being given one run of support over his last two starts. The Reds scored that lone run for him during his first loss of the season, 3-1 to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.

Arroyo was dealing with back soreness during that outing, an injury that contributed to his franchise-worst 46 homers allowed in 2011. He's yielded four this season after giving up two to the Cubs.

The veteran right-hander kept the Brewers' hits in the ballpark during a 9-5 win in Milwaukee on April 25, 2011, but matched a career high by yielding four during a home loss Sept. 16. Braun hit one of those and has seven of his last 13 games, including a career-high three in San Diego last Monday.

He's gone deep seven times in his past 12 matchups with Cincinnati, and Yovani Gallardo (1-3, 5.79) is probably hoping for one as he tries to avoid dropping a third straight start.

The right-hander has received two runs of support over his last three games and got none Wednesday in San Diego while allowing three runs in six innings.

Like Arroyo, Gallardo led his team with a career-high 17 wins during the division title-winning season. He also hasn't been consistent in recent starts against the Reds.

He gave up a solo homer and two hits during a 10-1 win in Cincinnati on Sept. 17, but was tagged for six runs over five innings at Miller Park on April 27, 2011.

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