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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Cincinnati Reds

It’s bratwursts and cheese curds vs skyline chili for four games in Cincinnati

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a hotly contested NL Central so far in 2023. While the play hasn’t been incredible relatively speaking — only the Brewers and Pirates have winning records — it’s still close across the board. The first-place Brewers currently sit only 4.5 games above the last-place Chicago Cubs. With the number of divisional games decreasing this season, there is added importance each time two division rivals square off.

After starting the season winning five of their first six series, the Brewers have struggled mightily to get series wins. By losing two out of three to the Blue Jays in Toronto, the Brewers haven’t won a series on the road since the third week of April against the Mariners. A major roadblock for the Brewers is their inability to score runs. They are currently 14th out of 15 teams in the National League in runs batted in, only ahead of the Marlins for worst in the league. They are currently last in the league in total bases, one behind the San Diego Padres and 48 behind the Reds.

Right in the middle of the standings are the Cincinnati Reds. One of the worst teams in baseball in 2022, the Reds only sit three games back in the NL Central heading into this four-game set. Spencer Steer and Jonathan India have led the way so far. India leads the team in hits with 59, and OBP at .363, while Steer has the club lead in home runs at eight while batting .289.

The Brewers will be fortunate to miss the hard-throwing Hunter Greene in this series. Greene has a team-leading 3.92 ERA, with 88 strikeouts. While his numbers don’t jump off the page, he has been on fire recently. He has stuck out eight-plus each time out in his last three starts. Greene and Graham Ashcraft are the only two Reds to have over 10 starts so far this season.

Both teams enter the series with injury problems. For the Brewers, Willy Adames (concussion), and Jesse Winker (cervical strain) are the latest in a long line of Brewers on the injured list. The Reds will be without Wil Myers, who sprained his shoulder last week. TJ Friedl (hamstring) enters the series day-to-day as well.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday, June 2 @ 4:10 p.m.: Corbin Burnes (4-4) vs. Brandon Williamson (0-0)

Brandon Williamson has made three starts this season, all no-decisions but all resulting in Reds wins. He has a 5.02 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, and he has given up four runs in each of his last two starts.

Corbin Burnes bounced back from a poor outing against the Astros with a good one against the Giants. He tied a season-high with eight strikeouts. With such a tight race at the top of the division, the Brewers are still looking for Burnes to find the consistency he offered over the last few seasons.

Saturday, June 3 @ 3:10 p.m.: Colin Rea (2-3) vs. Graham Ashcraft (3-3)

Ashcraft enters Saturday as one of the most used arms in the Reds rotation, despite a 5.55 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. He had back-to-back games giving up seven runs before a solid outing against the Cubs on Sunday when he went five innings, allowing just three runs in the win.

In an injury-riddled rotation, Colin Rea has stepped up in his last few starts. The Brewers have won his last three starts, and he has gone five-plus innings in his last two starts.

Sunday, June 4 @ 12:40 p.m.: Adrian Houser (1-1) vs. Ben Lively (3-2)

Lively has been the Reds' best pitcher the last few weeks, allowing just five earned runs across 22 23 innings. This will be his fourth start of the season, and he enters with a 1.99 ERA and 24 strikeouts.

Along the same lines as Colin Rea, Adrian Houser has done a nice job since the injuries built up in Milwaukee. Despite struggling against the Blue Jays, he still performed well. Before his last start against the Blue Jays, Houser had only allowed five runs in his last four starts, striking out 14.

Monday, June 5 @ 6:10 p.m.: Julio Teheran (1-1) vs. Luke Weaver (1-2)

Luke Weaver has pitched 43 23 innings so far this season, posting a 5.36 ERA in the process. Weaver saw a lot of time out of the bullpen during his last two stops in Kansas City and Arizona before coming to the Reds, where he is back to being a full-time starter. He gave up three runs and seven hits his last time on the mound.

Julio Teheran is the newest addition to the rotation, getting the start for the series finale. He has posted a sub-1.00 ERA through two starts and he’s brought a veteran presence to the rotation. He will go for his second win of the season on Monday.