Brewers aim to move closer in wild card race against Reds

The Milwaukee Brewers enter Tuesday's opener of a three- game series against Cincinnati hoping that the Reds are already looking toward the postseason.

The Brewers sit 3 1/2 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild card spot in the National League with nine games to play, one more than the Cards have left. They hope to make up some ground tonight after a 12-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Monday.

Milwaukee was undone by a six-run fourth inning by the Nats and it proved more costly when the Cardinals beat the Houston Astros on Monday.

The Brewers got an RBI double from Aramis Ramirez and two hits by Ryan Braun, but Washington's big frame included two runs scoring on a ball that center fielder Carlos Gomez lost in the sky.

"Really, the fly ball in the sun was the difference," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "If that ball's caught, it's still a 2-1 game. We gave them a run in the first, but it would've been a good ballgame."

Milwaukee lost for just the second time in nine games, but figures to have to play near perfect down the stretch as it does not have another regular-season meeting scheduled with St. Louis.

The Brewers hope that the Reds opt for some rest in preparation for the playoffs as they locked up the NL Central on Saturday. Cincinnati then lost a 5-3 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers the following day to conclude a three- game series.

Homer Bailey surrendered all five runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings for Cincinnati, which has still won five of seven.

"I thought he was solid," Reds acting manager Chris Speier said. "I thought he threw really, really well."

Speier was managing his fifth straight game in place of Dusty Baker, who was released from a Chicago hospital on Sunday following treatment for an irregular heartbeat. He could return to the bench tonight after being able to visit the team briefly on Sunday.

"Hopefully with the day off [Monday] and him getting a good relaxing night tonight at home, he can come back on Tuesday and see how he feels. It's great news," Speier told Cincinnati's website on Sunday.

Johnny Cueto takes the hill for the Reds looking to round into form before the playoffs.

The likely Game 1 starter for Cincinnati snapped a three-start slide on Thursday with a solid outing versus the Chicago Cubs. After yielding 14 runs over 15 1/3 innings during his losing streak, Cueto held the Cubs without a run over six innings, though he did need to work around five hits and four walks.

Still, the 26-year-old righty is 18-9 with a 2.84 ERA in 31 starts this season. That includes three meetings versus the Brewers in which he has gone 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA, holding them to four runs over 21 frames with 23 strikeouts.

The Brewers counter with 27-year-old rookie Mike Fiers, who lasted only three innings in his most recent start on Thursday at the Pittsburgh Pirates. He needed 81 pitches and yielded three runs on five hits and a walk.

Fiers is 9-8 with a 3.38 ERA in 21 games this season, all but one of those starts.

The righty has split two career encounters with the Reds with a 1.29 ERA. That includes a win on Aug. 7 as he hurled eight innings of one-run ball to beat Cueto.

Cincinnati has won five of its six home games versus Milwaukee this season.