After a surprisingly strong first half, Alfredo Simon is hoping to make the NL All-Star team.
A case could be made for Kyle Lohse, too.
These All-Star candidates go toe-to-toe as the Cincinnati Reds open a three-game home set against the Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.
Used exclusively as a reliever over the previous two years, Simon (10-3, 2.81 ERA) has greatly exceeded expectations after replacing then-injured Mat Latos in the rotation during spring training. The right-hander is one off the league lead in wins and is near the top with a 1.05 WHIP, just ahead of Lohse's mark of 1.08.
Simon has recorded a quality start in all but two of 16 outings after throwing seven innings of one-run ball in back-to-back showings. He allowed three hits and recorded 15 ground-ball outs in Saturday's 7-3, 11-inning victory at San Francisco.
Lohse (9-2, 3.08) also enters the holiday weekend with an impressive resume. He's two wins away from matching his total from all of last year, and his .235 opponent batting average is 38 points lower than his career mark.
"Yeah, it would be cool, but that's not what I'm here for and trying to do," Lohse told MLB's official website of making the All-Star team. "It's more important to pitch well and help us get into the postseason. Obviously it would be an honor, but it's not going to make my season or ruin my season."
Lohse yielded one run over seven innings last Friday in a 3-2 walkoff win over Colorado. His success shouldn't come as much of a surprise to the Reds (43-41), who haven't been able to figure out the right-hander.
Lohse has gone 3-1 over 10 starts versus Cincinnati since 2010 while posting a 1.88 ERA, his lowest mark against any team he's faced more than once during that time. Ryan Ludwick is 4 for 31 in their matchups and Todd Frazier is 1 for 12.
The Reds find themselves seven games behind Milwaukee after getting outscored 12-2 during a three-game sweep at San Diego. Cincinnati, which had previously won five straight and 14 of 18, closed its 6-4 road trip with Wednesday's 3-0 defeat to a Padres team which hadn't swept a series all season.
"It was a missed opportunity," manager Bryan Price said. "You have to be resilient in the baseball season. But it hurts, it hurts quite a bit to have this type of opportunity to come in and not to just be able to take a game or two in the series."
Cincinnati, though, is 5-2 against Milwaukee in 2014 and is looking forward to making up some ground this weekend.
"They're the No. 1 team in the division right now," outfielder Billy Hamilton said. "It would be big for us to come in and to get these wins."
The Brewers (51-35) are looking to avoid a season worst-tying fourth straight loss after suffering a series sweep for the first time, a two-game set at Toronto. Ryan Braun went 2 for 4 with two RBIs in Wednesday's 7-4 walkoff loss.
Milwaukee dropped four in a row May 17-20.
Braun is batting .414 with five extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in his last seven games. He's 2 for his last 20 against the Reds, though.
Khris Davis, meanwhile, is batting .348 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 15 games against Cincinnati dating to last year's rookie season. Davis is expected back after sitting out Wednesday with a strained left shoulder.
The Brewers are 6-16 at Great American Ball Park since the start of 2012.
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