The Cincinnati Reds have been shut out in three of their last five games, and Jay Bruce is in the deepest hitless slump of his career.
He used to be able to count on some success against Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo, but that's no longer the case.
With the Brewers uncertain about Ryan Braun's status, Gallardo is hoping some extra rest helps him recover from a poor outing as he takes the mound Sunday at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds (44-42) have scored six runs while batting .196 with 51 strikeouts over their last five games. They managed two hits as Matt Garza blanked them in Saturday's 1-0 defeat - the third time Cincinnati has lost by that score at home.
'The 1-0s are very frustrating,' Bruce said. 'We have a capable offense.'
No hitter is more emblematic of those woes than Bruce, who went 0 for 3 on Saturday to extend his hitless streak to a career-worst 23 at_bats.
Bruce has faced Gallardo (5-5, 3.51 ERA) more than any pitcher in baseball. He went 12 for 29 against the right-hander between 2008-12 but has been limited to three hits in his last 15 at_bats, including 1 for 5 this year.
The Brewers (52-36) have concerns about their own right fielder after Braun left in the second inning Saturday with spasms in his lower back. Manager Ron Roenicke said Braun had a stiff back during batting practice and it bothered the slugger early in the game.
Milwaukee is also scuffling on offense with eight runs in its last four games, but the NL's best club is feeling better about itself after ending a four-game slide Saturday - even if that was largely because of Garza.
'After losing four in a row, we needed a start like that,' catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. 'Obviously you don't want to create a losing streak. He was able to come in and stop it.'
Garza seemed to benefit from six days' rest, and Gallardo will have the same luxury Sunday.
Gallardo was charged with a season-high eight runs - five earned - over five innings in last Sunday's 10-4 loss to Colorado. He had posted a 1.00 ERA over his previous four outings.
"You never want to lose a game to begin with, but you have to stay positive and get ready for the next one," he told MLB's official website.
He'll be opposed by Mat Latos (1-1, 2.45), who makes his fifth start since being activated off the 60-day disabled list to pitch six scoreless innings in a 4-2 loss at Milwaukee on June 14. Latos has yielded one run in seven innings in each of his last two outings.
The right-hander is 2-4 with a 3.28 ERA in nine starts against the Brewers, getting supported by three runs or fewer eight times.
Some Milwaukee hitters could be happy to see Latos. Carlos Gomez is 8 for 17 against him, Jean Segura is 7 for 16 and Aramis Ramirez is 7 for 23.
Braun is 2 for 20 off Latos.
Cincinnati has taken six of nine from Milwaukee heading into the finale of this three-game set.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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