The Reds are well within striking distance of the top two teams in the National League Central. But if they have any hopes of catching the Cardinals and Pirates in the next two weeks, the Reds likely will have to find a way to beat the bottom of the division, too.
After taking three of four from the Cardinals and sweeping the Dodgers, Cincinnati lost two of three against the Cubs. Following an off-day, the Reds lost to the Brewers on Friday before earning a 7-3 win on Saturday.
That sets up Sunday's rubber match, and although it's a game the Reds should win, they know they can't take anything for granted with a division title on the line.
"That's the way baseball goes," Reds starter Mat Latos said after being tagged for five runs in Friday's loss. "You look at other sports, you have a team that's not doing so well and a team that's doing real well. There's about a 99 percent chance that team's going to blow the other team out. Baseball is a completely different aspect."
After Pittsburgh won and St. Louis lost on Saturday, creating a first-place tie again, Cincinnati is 2 1/2 games back of the top spot in the NL Central. Looking to keep pace on Sunday, the Reds will send right-hander Bronson Arroyo to the mound. In three starts against the Brewers this season, Arroyo has gone 2-0 with a 2.11 ERA. Most recently, he earned the win against Milwaukee on Aug. 24, allowing three runs in seven innings.
Although Arroyo pitched well in his last start, surrendering just two runs, he took the loss, as the Cubs blanked the Reds, 2-0.
The Brewers will counter with Yovani Gallardo, who has been strong since coming off the disabled list about a month ago. In five starts dating back to Aug. 17, Gallardo is 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA. One of his no-decisions came when he allowed two earned runs in six innings against the Reds in a 6-4 Brewers win on Aug. 23.
Gallardo gave up just one run in seven innings last Sunday against the Cubs, and he said his stint on the disabled list with a tight left hamstring has recharged him.
"Coming off the DL, it kind of refreshes the mental side a little bit more than anything," Gallardo said. "You just go out there and just locate. ... Especially when you've had a tough start [to the season], you try to get the positives. Ever since I came off the DL, my main thing is to give the team a chance to win and be consistent each time out. If you're able to do that, things are going to work out well."
Reds: Baker desires fewer strikeouts
No manager likes to see their team strike out, but Reds skipper Dusty Baker has become especially frustrated with the frequent number of punchouts at the expense of his batters as of late.
Before Cincinnati's win over Milwaukee on Saturday, the Reds had struck out 23 times in their previous four games. That included three losses to the Cubs and Brewers in which Cincinnati combined to score two runs.
"Strikeouts, you don't have a chance to do nothing," Baker said. "No matter what the stat boys say, you put the ball in play. [Striking out] was an embarrassment back in my time. It's not such an embarrassment now, it's accepted. But it makes it harder to win. Maybe I'm old, but sometimes I don't like the way the game's going."
The Reds fanned five times on Saturday, but thanks in large part to Shin-Soo Choo's three RBIs they scored seven runs in the win.
• The Reds outfielders, particularly left fielder Ryan Ludwick, have had trouble defensively at Miller Park. On Friday, Ludwick lost a ball in the lights, leading to a Jonathan Lucroy double. Baker said players, including Ludwick, have complained about the lights in Milwaukee.
"The balls in the gap, sometimes that medium fly ball," Ludwick said. "I tried to get down low and tried to get out of the lights, but ... I was trying to just get a different angle on it, and I just couldn't get it out [of the lights]."
Brewers: Gomez not frustrated by falling numbers
Through the end of June, Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez was putting together a career season, boasting a slash line of .315/.355/.566 to go with a .921 OPS.
All of those numbers have dropped -- some significantly -- but Gomez was quick to point out that he's still enjoying one of the best individual seasons of his career.
"I don't feel frustrated like people think," he said. "I'm still hitting .280. What's my career high average, .260? I'm still way over. Everything is high. The worst thing we've been through this year is we don't win games, but personally, I'm better in my overall numbers."
Gomez set his career high with a .260 batting average last season, and he's already matched the career-best 19 home runs he hit last season with 15 games left to play in 2013. The 27-year-old has battled various injuries throughout the second half of the season, and manager Ron Roenicke said Gomez's statistical decline isn't that surprising.
"Is he a .330 hitter?" Roenicke said. "If a guy is a .260 hitter, OK, he may hit .290 one year, but to go to .330, when you look at what leads the league every year, that's a pretty elite group. A guy usually doesn't have a freak year where he hits that high."
• The Reds will look for their seventh series win against the Brewers in their last 11 tries on Sunday.
• Despite Saturday's loss, the Brewers own a 5-4 record at Miller Park against the Reds this season.
• Including his 1-for-4 effort on Saturday, Brewers outfielder Khris Davis enters Sunday batting .440 with four homers and 10 RBIs in eight games against the Reds this season.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.