The Reds took another step towards clinching their first playoff berth since 1995 by coming through with a 5-2 win over the Brewers in Monday's opener of this three-game series. With St. Louis losing to Florida yesterday, Cincinnati now holds a seven-game advantage on the second-place Cardinals and has a magic number of six to wrap up the division.
"We're not looking at what the Cardinals are doing," Reds pitcher Homer Bailey stated after Monday's win. "We're looking towards the playoffs. We just focus on the day's game, and that's what we've done all year."
NL MVP candidate Joey Votto had the deciding hit in last night's triumph, with the All-Star first baseman belting a two-run homer off Milwaukee reliever Kameron Loe (3-5) in the top of the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie. Scott Rolen followed Votto's blast with a solo homer to increase the margin to three runs.
The back-to-back shots made a winner out of Nick Masset (4-4), who tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings after taking over for Bailey. Aroldis Chapman got the final two outs in the eighth before closer Francisco Cordero threw a scoreless ninth to notch his 37th save of the year.
Bailey worked the first six innings and allowed two runs on six hits while striking out seven batters.
The victory was Cincinnati's sixth in a row over Milwaukee, and the Reds have now prevailed in 12 of the last 13 meetings between the clubs dating back to last season. The team has gone 6-1 at Miller Park over that stretch.
Volquez will try to extend that streak, as well as his own personal strong recent run, in tonight's tilt. Since returning from a short stay in the minors to work out some mechanical issues, the hard-throwing right-hander has put together two very good starts, including a hard-luck no-decision against Pittsburgh on September 11 in which he yielded a mere one hit and struck out 10 over seven shutout innings.
The 2008 All-Star fanned seven in 6 2/3 frames in his latest outing, but still received a loss in a 3-1 verdict against Arizona this past Thursday after being reached for three runs.
Volquez has made 10 starts for the Reds since returning from Tommy John surgery in mid-July and has gone 3-3 with a 4.99 earned run average. He had been sent to Single-A Dayton on August 31, eight days after being rocked for five runs and walking three batters while recording just two outs in a loss at San Francisco.
The native Dominican also struggled in a no-decision at Milwaukee on July 27, issuing four walks and surrendering four runs on six hits in only 3 2/3 innings. Volquez is 2-1 in five lifetime starts against the Brewers, but has pitched to a suspect 6.84 ERA over the course of those games.
Milwaukee, losers of two straight following a sequence of three straight wins, will send out Dave Bush to oppose Volquez. The right-hander hopes to bounce back from a poor effort last Wednesday in Houston, where he permitted six runs (five earned) before exiting after 4 1/3 innings and registering a no-decision against the Astros.
Bush is just 7-12 in 30 appearances (29 starts) for the season and is winless (0-1) in three September starts. The 30-year-old also hasn't historically fared well when taking on the Reds, having gone 2-4 with a 7.07 ERA in 12 lifetime encounters with Cincinnati. He's yet to face the Reds this season.
Milwaukee did receive a solid start out of Chris Capuano in last night's loss, with the oft-injured lefty holding Cincinnati to two runs on four hits and striking out seven before giving way to Loe.
"I thought that it was a huge step in the right direction for Capuano, throwing over 100 pitches with seven strikeouts," said Brewers manager Ken Macha afterward.
Ryan Braun drove in both Milwaukee runs in yesterday's contest, with Rickie Weeks scoring each time as part of a 2-for-3 performance at the plate.