If the Brewers are going to win tonight they'll need to beat NL Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto (2.84 ERA, 3.26 FIP), who ranks fourth among National League pitchers in Wins Above Replacement (fWAR, 4.6) this season and is eighth with 203 innings pitched, easily a career high. He pitched six shutout innings against the Cubs on Thursday and allowed five hits and four walks, striking out two.
Thursday was Cueto's best outing in a while: Before shutting out the Cubs for six innings he had posted a 5.93 ERA over his previous five starts and allowed opposing batters to hit .318/.355/.527 over that time. The Reds have lightened his workload a bit lately: He's thrown 97 pitches or less in each of his four September starts.
The Brewers have faced Cueto three times this season and he's been very good against them, allowing four runs over 21 innings for a 1.71 ERA. He's struck out 23 Brewers and walked two over those starts. Six current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:
He'll face Mike Fiers (3.38 ERA, 2.90 FIP), who has been a different pitcher since the calendar turned to September. Fiers had a 2.85 ERA after a 7.1 inning outing on August 29 but has a 6.61 mark since and hasn't pitched more than five innings in any of his last four outings. Fiers lasted just three innings against the Pirates on Thursday and allowed three runs on five hits.
The biggest difference between Fiers from June-August and today is control. He was walking about two batters per nine innings in his first 17 appearances but has walked ten in 16.1 innings since. Opposing batters have a .405 OBP against him in September.
Fiers has faced the Reds twice this season and pitched very well, holding them to a combined two earned runs on eight hits over 14 innings with no walks and eleven strikeouts. No current Reds have faced him ten times or more.
Here's tonight's lineup:
Norichika Aoki RF
Rickie Weeks 2B
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart 1B
Jonathan Lucroy C (10 game hitting streak)
Carlos Gomez CF
Jean Segura SS
Mike Fiers P
And in the bullpen:
Manny Parra pitched two innings (48 pitches) yesterday.
Josh Stinson pitched 1.2 innings (34 pitches) yesterday.
Kameron Loe pitched .1 innings (19 pitches) yesterday.
Brandon Kintzler pitched one inning (23 pitches) Sunday.
Jim Henderson pitched one inning (17 pitches) Sunday.
Jose Veras pitched .2 innings (17 pitches) Sunday.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (10 pitches) Sunday.
John Axford pitched .1 innings (4 pitches) Sunday.
Tyler Thornburg and Livan Hernandez each pitched on Saturday.
Tonight's game will likely start on time but could be interrupted by scattered thunderstorms sometime in the middle innings. The Weather Channel predicts a game time temperature of 67 and a 40-50% chance of precipitation between the 8-9 pm Central hours.