The Cincinnati Reds seem to have found their form following a 1-8 start. They'll get a chance to see just how far they've come when they visit Milwaukee to open a two-game series against the Brewers on Tuesday.
The Reds missed a chance to win their third straight three-game series with an 8-3 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday afternoon.
Still, they are 16-14 over their past 30 games and play their next nine against National League Central opponents, including two against the second-place Brewers and three more at the division-leading Chicago Cubs this weekend.
Milwaukee won three straight one-run games at Cincinnati during the Reds' rough start.
"We've put ourselves in a spot where we're looking forward to going on this road trip and playing against two good teams and seeing how we match up," Reds manager David Bell said after Sunday's loss to the Dodgers.
In the series opener against the Brewers, Cincinnati will be up against left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-0, 1.69 ERA), who is set to make his fifth start of the season.
Gonzalez finished last season with the Brewers after getting traded from the Washington Nationals on Aug. 31. He signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees during spring training but opted out in late April because he wanted to remain a starter.
The Brewers afforded that opportunity, and Gonzalez has shown why he still had faith in himself to be part of a rotation. He has been particularly sharp in his past three outings, holding opponents to a combined two runs in 16 1/3 innings.
"He's keeping runs off the board," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's doing a nice job, doing it with great feel, keeping the hitters on the defensive a little bit. ... The hitter never really feels like he's in a good count, doesn't feel like he's aggressive. He's doing a wonderful job."
Gonzalez prefers to talk about the pitching staff as a whole. The Brewers had the fifth-best ERA in the majors last season at 3.73 but have fallen to 14th this season (4.24), though they've held 14 of their past 16 opponents to four runs or fewer.
"Collectively, as a starting rotation, we're working together and picking up off each other," Gonzalez said. "It helps out with a bullpen like ours; it eases the mind a little bit when you know you can keep pitching, and if times get a little rough, you have guys back there to make their magic happen."
Gonzalez is 6-3 in his career against Cincinnati with a 2.75 ERA in 12 starts. He last faced them on Sept. 19 as a member of the Brewers, throwing six shutout innings and allowing two hits in a 7-0 win.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto is 10-for-30 off Gonzalez in his career with three home runs and three doubles.
Reds starter Sonny Gray (0-4, 4.30 ERA) was also most recently a member of the Yankees organization, playing in New York for part of the 2017 season and all of 2018. He was traded to Cincinnati on Jan. 21 and is still looking for his first win of the year.
He's had a couple good opportunities, including his latest start, when he gave up three runs and five hits in five innings against the visiting Cubs on Wednesday. He departed with the Reds trailing 3-2 before they eventually won 6-5 in 10 innings.
Gray made his only appearance against Milwaukee on June 21, 2016, when he was still with the Oakland A's. He received a no-decision while allowing two runs (one earned) and seven hits over six innings. He fanned seven and walked one.
--Field Level Media