The power surge of Ryan Braun is pushing Milwaukee closer to its first division championship since 1982.
Braun finished 3-for-5 with a three-run homer and four RBI, while Mark Kotsay ripped a three-run double as the Milwaukee Brewers thumped the Cincinnati Reds, 10-1, last night. The victory, combined with St. Louis' loss at Philadelphia, reduced Milwaukee's magic number to five for winning the NL Central.
The last time Milwaukee celebrated a baseball division championship, the Brewers were playing in the American League. They captured the AL East in 1982 before losing in seven games in the World Series to the Cardinals.
Braun is a big reason why the Brewers are atop the standings. He has homered four times in his last four games and has eight RBI in his last five contests.
Yuniesky Betancourt also cracked a solo home run for the Brewers, winners in four of their last five games.
Yovani Gallardo (17-10) worked six spectacular innings, giving up one run on two hits, while fanning a career-high 13 batters.
"He got after it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He had a good fastball, good location and a really nice curveball. He really threw the ball well."
Yonder Alonso homered for the Reds, losers of two straight and six of 10.
Edinson Volquez (5-6) was tagged with the loss after giving up five runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. He struck out six and walked three.
Zack Greinke has allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of his last 13 starts and hopes to keep the pressure on the Reds this afternoon. The righty is 0-1 over his last two starts thanks to poor offensive support, as the Brewers have posted two runs in that span. He's 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three career games vs. Cincinnati.
Dontrelle Willis will try to avoid a dubious feat today for Cincinnati. The left-hander is already the first Reds pitcher to begin a season 0-6 since Homer Bailey finished the 2008 season winless in six decisions and the first southpaw to do it since Jim Merritt began 0-11 in 1971 before ending 1-11. No Reds pitcher has started a season 0-7 since righty Brian Reith in 2001, when at 0-7 he established the club record for the most losses to begin a Reds career.
On the positive side for Willis, lefties are hitting just .137 against him, and he has given up just two extra-base hits to lefty batters, both on July 24 against Atlanta. He's 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA in six games vs. Milwaukee.
Dusty Baker's next win will be the 1,480th of his managerial career, tying him with Hall of Famer Earl Weaver for 21st on the all-time list.
Cincinnati has won eight of its 15 meetings with the Brewers this season.