Reds lean on act Latos versus Brewers

Staff ace Mat Latos aims for a third win in four decisions on Friday night when the playoff-pursuing Cincinnati Reds visit the Milwaukee Brewers for the first of three weekend games at Miller Park.

The Reds enter the series in a comfortable, but improvable postseason position. They're now in possession of the National League's second Wild Card spot and lead that pursuit by 5 1/2 games over the Washington Nationals.

However, they're just 2 1/2 games behind both Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the NL Central Division, which means they could still earn the division crown for the third time in four seasons.

Latos, in his second full season with the Reds after a trade that sent Edinson Volquez, among others, to San Diego, was a 7-2 winner over the Cardinals on Sept. 2 after going the nine-inning distance and giving up two runs on four hits.

He dropped a 6-1 verdict to St. Louis one start before and defeated Arizona, 2-1, one start prior to that one. In his most recent outing, he got a no- decision in the Reds' 4-3 defeat of the Los Angeles Dodgers after allowing three runs in seven innings.

The Virginia native is 2-3 in seven career starts against the Brewers and dropped a 2-0 verdict to them on Aug. 17 at Miller Park after going seven innings and allowing two runs on six hits.

He's 5-4 in 16 road starts in 2013.

For Milwaukee, veteran righty Kyle Lohse faces the Reds for the 15th time in his career.

The California native is 4-4 in the initial 14 outings, including a 2-1 loss on Aug. 15 at Miller Park in which he allowed a single earned run on five hits in seven innings.

Lohse pitched for the Reds in 2006 and 2007 and was 9-17 for them in 33 appearances.

He's 1-1 in four starts since last facing Cincinnati, including an 8-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs in his most recent outing on Sept. 6.

On Thursday in St. Louis, Sean Halton smacked a two-run homer and drove in three in the Brewers' 5-3 win over the Cardinals in the finale of a three-game set.

Tyler Thornburg (2-1) fanned six and surrendered two runs on three hits and two walks over six innings for Milwaukee, which dropped the first two in the series.

Jim Henderson gave up a run in the ninth, but still got credited with his 25th save of the year in the triumph.

On Wednesday in Cincinnati, Jack Hannahan clubbed a pinch-hit three-run homer and five pitchers combined to shut out the Cubs, as the Reds got a 6-0 win.

Devin Mesoraco went 3-for-4 with a solo home run for the Reds, who dodged being swept at home by the Cubs for the first time in 12 years.

Reds starter Mike Leake picked up his career-high 13th win of the season after limiting the Cubs to four hits in 5 2/3 innings. Leake (13-6) struck out six and overcame bouts of wildness as indicated by four walks.

"Our pitching all-around has been doing a very good job," Leake said. "You never feel like we're gonna blow it. It's nice to have that confidence behind everyone."

The Reds won nine of the first 16 games with the Brewers this season, a year after winning the 2012 season series, 9-6.