Yovani Gallardo knows that even though it's early, the upcoming stretch of road games is a key one for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Jay Bruce finally homered again for the Cincinnati Reds, and facing Gallardo could help him get on track.
These NL Central rivals meet for the first time in 2013 on Friday night in Cincinnati, with NL batting leader Carlos Gomez of the Brewers looking to extend his career-high hitting streak to 15 games.
Milwaukee's 10-game trip consists of visits to the clubs ahead of it in the division standings - Cincinnati (19-16), Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The Brewers (15-17) capped a 3-6 homestand with a 4-1 defeat to Texas on Wednesday.
Milwaukee was swept by the Cardinals in four games last weekend.
"Definitely, this is an important road trip," Gallardo told the Brewers' official website. "Ten games, and they're all big, especially after losing those four against St. Louis here at home. Those next 10 games are going to allow us to make up some ground."
Gallardo (3-1, 4.50 ERA) has gone 3-0 with a 3.16 ERA over his last four starts after posting a 6.61 ERA in his first three. However, his three-start win streak ended when he allowed four runs over six innings of a 7-6 loss to St. Louis on Saturday.
The right-hander owns a 6.00 road ERA compared to a 3.90 home mark. He dropped both 2012 starts at Cincinnati with a 4.63 ERA while going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two against the Reds at home last year.
"It's always fun when you see a team for the first time, like the Reds," Gallardo said. "They have a little different lineup than last year, so we'll see how it plays out."
One of the familiar faces to Gallardo is Bruce, 12 for 29 with two homers against him.
The Reds outfielder had a career-high 34 homers last year, with team bests of four homers and 13 RBIs against Milwaukee in 2012. Bruce, though, ended a 14-game home run drought with just his second of the season in a 7-2 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.
Bruce's average has dropped steadily since he was batting .282 on April 22 - the date of his previous home run - as he's gone 12 for 60 (.200) in the last 15 games to leave him at .248.
The opposite has been true for Gomez, who's hitting .491 and has scored 13 runs during his 14-game run. The center fielder is batting .386 overall.
Gomez and the Brewers are 4-7 in games in which they face a left-handed starter heading into their first look at another one, Reds rookie Tony Cingrani (2-0, 2.63).
Cingrani gave up a season-high four runs over six innings of a 6-4 road victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. He had a season-low five strikeouts after recording 28 in his first three 2013 starts.
The Reds went 9-6 against the Brewers last season and 7-2 at home.
Joey Votto's 10-game hitting streak ended Wednesday and he failed to reach base for the first time all season, going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Votto is a .320 hitter versus Gallardo.
Shin-Soo Choo is 1 for 2 against Gallardo, and the Reds newcomer is hitting .388 at home and .398 with all seven of his homers against right-handers this year.