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The Cincinnati Reds entered the all-star break holding a one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers at the top of the NL Central standings. The two teams closed out the first half of the season against one another last weekend in Milwaukee and are opening the second half with a weekend series in Cincinnati. Given the close proximity between the two teams in the standings, Saturday’s game is critical as the Reds and Brewers jockey for position as we approach the stretch run of the season.
The Brewers took two of three games from the Reds last weekend, helping them to inch closer to first place. That series extended Milwaukee’s run of five straight series without taking a series loss. However, extending that streak during the second half of the season will be tough. Milwaukee’s first 15 games after the all-star break are all against the Reds, Phillies, or Braves, so the Brewers are in the midst of a huge test.
Of course, the Reds managed to hold onto their slim lead at the top of the NL Central despite dropping two of three games in Milwaukee. Prior to visiting Milwaukee last weekend, the Reds had won eight of nine games and were among the hottest teams in baseball. Needless to say, they hope to use a 10-game homestand to open the second half of the season to pick up where they left off in early July.
For Saturday’s game, the odds are almost as tight as the NL Central race. DraftKings has the Reds favored at home with a moneyline of -135 compared to Milwaukee’s moneyline of +115. There is also an over/under of 9.5 runs.
Freddy Peralta will take the mound for the Brewers on Saturday night. He’s been all over the place this season, going 5-7 with a 4.70 ERA. The Brewers have also lost five of the last eight games that he’s started. However, there’s no denying that Peralta has great stuff. Over his last 10.2 innings across his last two starts, Peralta has struck out 18 batters. He’s also allowed just seven hits over those 10.2 innings. However, walks and a pair of home runs have hurt him in those starts, as he allowed three runs in each of them. In fact, Peralta has now allowed at least three earned runs in eight of his last 10 starts.
Unless Peralta can be better, the Brewers are going to need to score some runs on Saturday in order to win. Fortunately, the Milwaukee lineup began the month of July on a hot streak. Prior to scoring one run in last Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Reds, the Brewers averaged 6.5 runs per game in their previous eight games. Even with a few players missing due to injury, Willy Adames, Christian Yelich, and William Contreras have all been scorching hot over the last two weeks.
The Reds will send rookie Andrew Abbott to the mound on Saturday night. Abbott had been dominant through the first six starts of his career, posting a 1.21 ERA. However, he got knocked around the Brewers last weekend, giving up six runs on nine hits over 4.1 innings. It’s worth noting that was the second time Abbott has faced Milwaukee this season, so the Brewers were able to figure him out the second time. However, Abbott was still able to strike out six batters in a problematic outing and still owns a 2.38 ERA. Plus, the Reds won all six of his starts prior to last weekend’s trip to Milwaukee.
In most of Abbott’s starts thus far, the Reds haven’t needed to produce much offense to win. That might not be the case on Saturday if Cincinnati’s rookie starter has another bad day. The good news is that in the lead-up to the all-star break, the Reds scored at least five runs in four of six games. Young hitters like Elly De La Cruz and Will Benson have come to the forefront during the first part of July. Joey Votto has also returned from the IL to provide a spark for Cincinnati’s lineup. The 39-year-old hit four home runs in his last six games before the all-star break. If that hot hitting can continue and Abbott is able to bounce back from his last start, the Reds should have an edge at home on Saturday night.
The over/under of 9.5 runs is tricky in this game because while the Reds are one of the best teams in baseball at going over the run line, the Brewers tend to stay under it. But given Peralta’s inconsistency lately and the way Abbott got knocked around by Milwaukee last weekend, both teams have a chance to score some runs. With hitters on both sides having Friday to shake off any all-star break rust, Great American Ball Park should see plenty of offense on Saturday night, making the over the better bet.
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Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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