Reds aim to slice into Brewers' NL Central lead

( - The Cincinnati Reds are looking to make a move. So what better time than a pair of series with the teams they're chasing in the National League's Central Division?

The Reds take to the road for game one of a three-game set at Miller Park against the first-place Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.

Cincinnati will follow up the weekend in Wisconsin with a three-game visit to PNC Park in Pittsburgh, another team it's chasing in the standings. The Reds are fourth in the Central, eight games behind the Brewers and a half-game behind the Pirates.

They defeated the Brewers in three of four games in a series at Cincinnati in early May.

Unfortunately, the Reds enter the six-game gauntlet with the prospect of an absence for All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips, who injured the index finger on his right hand while fielding a grounder in Thursday's defeat of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He left the game in the eighth inning.

"It was fairly uncomfortable, especially swinging the bat," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said.

The Reds have been pounded by injuries while trying to return to the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. Catcher Devin Mesoraco came off the disabled list on May 16. Outfielder Jay Bruce also missed time and returned seven days later. And first baseman Joey Votto missed 23 games before returning this week.

On Friday, Cincinnati sends Homer Bailey to the mound in the midst of a resurgence.

He has won four straight starts since beginning the season with a 5.44 earned run average in his initial nine starts and allowing a .303 opposition batting average.

He allowed one run in eight innings while defeating Philadelphia, 4-1, on Sunday.

"I knew all along, even from the beginning, just give me a little bit of time and let me get my rhythm back," Bailey said.

He defeated the Brewers, 8-3, on May 1 with eight innings of work, and is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA against them in his last four meetings.

He's opposed by right-hander Matt Garza, who's won two straight starts since a six-start skid in which he was 1-2 with 5.56.

In his last start, he emerged with a 9-3 win in spite of allowing three runs and walking five batters in six innings on Saturday against Minnesota.

"Personal wins are nice, but the team winning is what really matters, and all I want to do is keep stacking up those team wins," Garza said.

He faced the Reds twice while with the Chicago Cubs in 2013 and allowed 13 runs in nine innings.

On Thursday in Cincinnati, Alfredo Simon outdueled Zack Greinke to lift the Reds over the Dodgers, 4-1, in the finale of a four-game set at Great American Ball Park.

Simon (9-3) allowed just one run on seven hits, striking out five without a walk, over a career-high eight innings for the Reds. The right-hander has won his last three starts, surrendering just seven runs and one walk in 20 1/3 innings of work over that span.

Todd Frazier added a two-run homer for Cincinnati, which won four of six to salvage a 5-5 homestand.

In New York, Jonathan Lucroy's go-ahead two-run homer in the 13th inning helped lift the Brewers to a 5-1 win over the Mets in the finale of a three- game set.

Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez and Mark Reynolds each drove in a run for the Brewers.

Zach Duke (4-0) pitched a flawless 12th inning to get the win.