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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Cincinnati Reds

The Brewers could possibly clinch a playoff spot in Cincinnati — if they don’t get ahead of themselves

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

With a week left in the regular season, it’s probably fair to say that the Cincinnati Reds were not a very good team in 2019. They were, however, annoyingly good against plenty of opponents, including the Milwaukee Brewers.

A Reds team that has fought the Brewers tooth and nail to a 8-8 split through their first 16 meetings gets one more chance to be a pain in the, uh, side, as the Brewers try to lock down a playoff spot.

That could come in Cincinnati, as their magic number for a wildcard spot is down to 3. It will be fair from easy, though, as Cincinnati throws out two of the (very quietly) best starters in the National League this year.

It’s not just the Derek Johnson-led pitching when it comes to the Reds, either. Despite going .500 against them to this point in the year, the Brewers have actually been outscored by the Reds 85-69 in their meetings so far. Both teams enter this series hoping to finally climb out of negative run differential territory this week.

Eugenio Suarez has a chance to become the Reds’ single season home run record holder, coming into this series with 48 homers while hitting .272/.353/.574 this year (the record is held by George Foster, who hit 52 in 1977).

Another slugger, Aristedes Aquino, has also hit 17 home runs in just 50 games this year, but has only hit 3 this month after his prodigious start in August.

Probable Pitchers

Tuesday, September 24th - 5:40 p.m. CDT
Adrian Houser vs. Sonny Gray

Gray set a rather obscure MLB record in his last start, but it’s an MLB record nonetheless, allowing 6 or fewer hits for the 32nd straight start. Gray has been one of the best pitchers in the National League in the second half of the season, putting up a 1.91 ERA in his last 80 innings, striking out 96 while holding opponents to a .164/.268/.295 line. His next strikeout will be his 200th of the season.

Wednesday, September 25th - 5:40 p.m. CDT
Jordan Lyles vs. Tyler Mahle

In his second full season, Mahle has managed to cut down his walks from 4.3 per 9 innings last year to 2.3 this year, while keeping his strikeout rate (9.0 K/9) roughly the same. Despite that, he’s still carrying a mediocre ERA of 4.93, although his FIP would say that should be about a half run lower at 4.43. He’s coming off a good start his last time out, holding the Cubs to just one run over 6 innings.

Thursday, September 26th - 11:35 a.m. CDT
Chase Anderson vs. Luis Castillo

Castillo is still putting together an excellent year overall, but has been more hittable in the second half as he regresses from the 2.29 ERA in had in his first 18 starts. He’s allowed 40 runs over 79.2 innings in 13 second-half starts, amounting to a 4.52 ERA post-All-Star break. A good chunk of that came in a handful of blowup starts, though -- 6 runs in 5 innings against the Rockies, 8 runs in 4.1 innings against the Cardinals, and 5 runs in 6 innings against the Marlins. He’s allowed 3 runs or less in each of his 4 starts in September.

Player to Watch

Aristedes Aquino made headlines with his home run binge in early August, hitting 7 home runs in a weeks’ time, including homering four days in a row, capping it off with a 3-homer game against the Cubs on August 10th. After snapping that streak, he proceeded to hit 4 more home runs in a 6-day span.

Of course, he couldn’t keep up that pace forever, and as pitchers have adjusted to him, he’s hit just .222/.275/.405 in 34 games since August 18th, with 6 home runs and 38 strikeouts in 126 at-bats.

Even with that slump, he’s shown he has the power to swing the balance of a game with a single at-bat — something that could prove to be critical in a series where every pitch may matter for the Brewers.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference