(SportsNetwork.com) - A late August swoon and a just-as-poor September have dealt the Milwaukee Brewers' playoff hopes a hefty blow.
The Brewers sit five games off the second wild card spot in the National League with six to go and will try to keep their faint postseason aspirations afloat Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series with the familiar Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Milwaukee is 2-4 on a nine-game, 10-day road trip and 7-13 this month. It dropped two of three at Pittsburgh this weekend and suffered a 1-0 loss on Sunday at PNC Park, where Russell Martin singled in the only run during the seventh inning off Wily Peralta.
Peralta was dealt the hard-luck loss and lasted seven innings.
The Brewers have scored two or more runs only twice in the last five games.
"We need to score runs, and we're in a position now where we're hoping to get help from somebody," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.
Mike Fiers received two runs of support in last Wednesday's 2-0 loss at St. Louis and draws the start Tuesday for the Brewers. The Brewers posted 10 runs in Fiers's previous two starts before coming up empty against the Cardinals, as the right-hander was reached for two runs -- one earned -- and three hits over seven innings.
Fiers has faced the Reds five times (3 starts) in his career and is just 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA. His only appearance against the Reds this season came in relief on June 15 at Miller Park.
The Reds will close out the season with six straight games at home versus Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, and are back in Cincinnati following a 2-7 road trip against the Brewers, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
Cincinnati ended a six-game slide and salvaged the finale of a three-game series in St. Louis with Sunday's 7-2 win, as Alfredo Simon threw six innings of two-run ball and received four home runs of support.
Jay Bruce went 3-for-4 with two home runs and three RBI, while Todd Frazier homered and Devin Mesoraco belted a three-run shot in a four-run eighth inning for the Reds. Bruce also went deep in the eighth.
"Obviously every win you get is good," Bruce said. "To get some cushion for the pitchers there and end the final road trip of the year on a good note is something we can take a positive out of, go home and finish strong."
Bruce and the Reds have scored no more than three runs in each of Johnny Cueto's last seven starts and the right-hander hopes his luck changes Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. The Reds were blanked, 7-0, at Wrigley Filed last Tuesday and Cueto surrendered six runs with five walks in 5 2/3 frames.
Cueto had won three straight and eight of his previous 10 starts and fell to 18-9 with a 2.33 earned run average this season. Cueto is 19 strikeouts shy of 1,000 in his career and is trying to become the first Reds pitcher to win 20 games since Danny Jackson in 1988 (23-8). The last Cincinnati right-hander to post 20 or more wins in a season was Sammy Ellis in 1965 (22-10).
In 16 home starts this season, Cueto is 11-4 with a 1.79 ERA. He has faced the Brewers 15 times (all starts) in his career and sports a 6-3 mark to go along with a 3.22 ERA. Cueto faced the Brewers in a 6-2 Reds victory on May 3 and threw eight innings of two-run ball against them with 10 K's.
The Reds and Brewers have split 16 meetings this season with Cincinnati holding a 5-2 serve as the host.