Cincinnati Reds right-hander Homer Bailey has been a key part of his club's push for a playoff spot and they need him to step up now more than ever.
The former first-round pick tries to win his sixth straight decision on Saturday afternoon when the Reds continue a three-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bailey has not lost since a four-game slide from July 8-26, which coincidentally came after he threw a no-hitter versus San Francisco to begin the month.
However, the 27-year-old has gone 5-0 with a 2.44 earned run average over his last eight starts and the Reds are 7-1 in that span. That includes a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, though Bailey did not get a decision despite giving up just two runs and striking out nine over seven innings.
Bailey is 10-10 with a 3.39 ERA in 29 starts this year, numbers that would be better if not for some struggles versus the Brewers. He is 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA against the rivals in 2013 and has lifetime numbers in this matchup of 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA in 15 starts.
For the Brewers, Johnny Hellweg will try to put together the first winning streak of his career.
Hellweg lost his first three career decisions after making four appearances and three starts earlier this year. His first taste of big league action ended briefly following a loss at home to the Reds on July 10, when he allowed four runs on four hits and five walks.
Summoned back to the Brewers from the minors in early September, he picked up his first career win on Saturday versus the Chicago Cubs. The 6-foot-9 righty gave up three runs on four hits and three walks over six innings, though he did yield a pair of homers in the 99-pitch outing.
"It feels good to go out there and put up six innings and give the team a chance to win," the 24-year-old Hellweg told Milwaukee's website. "It's a good feeling to have going into my next start."
That start comes against the playoff-hopeful Reds, who have lost three of their last four to see their lead for the NL's second wild card spot over Washington trimmed to 4 1/2 games.
Cincinnati was bested 5-1 in last night's opener, leaving it 3 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central.
Mat Latos gave up five runs over 6 2/3 innings for the Reds, who have lost seven of their last 11 versus the Brewers are winning five of six to open the season series. They also fell to 3-5 at Miller Park this year.
"A couple jams shots that beat us," Latos said. "You beat a guy and then technically you don't beat him because he beats you."
Cincinnati could not beat Kyle Lohse, who logged the ninth complete game of his career. He gave up one run on four hits, striking out five and retiring 23 in a row at one point before a two-out walk in the ninth.
"He really threw the ball well all game," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said of Lohse. "He even got better probably the later we got."
Carlos Gomez had three hits and drove in all five Milwaukee runs to match a career high. The Brewers have won two straight and four of their last six.
Milwaukee will try to win three in a row for the first time since July 29-30, but is unlikely to have third baseman Aramis Ramirez in the lineup after he was hit by a pitch on the left wrist Friday. X-rays were negative.