With the Brewers facing a third National League Central contender in September, the Reds have some work to do in order to follow what St. Louis and Pittsburgh managed to do by each winning their series against Milwaukee.
After Kyle Lohse shut down the Reds for a complete-game victory in the opener Friday night, Cincinnati needs to win out the rest of the weekend to match the recent results of the Cardinals and Pirates, who each won two of three against the Brewers.
On Saturday, the Reds will turn to Homer Bailey, who has been on a winning roll of late, against rookie Johnny Hellweg in a game that certainly will have implications in the National League Wild Card race.
The Reds' advantage in the No. 2 Wild Card spot has slipped to just 4 1/2 games over Washington, which has won seven straight games.
Cincinnati got off to a losing start in Milwaukee after dropping a series to the last-place Cubs. But they'd won six of seven against the Cardinals and Dodgers -- both contenders -- before that.
Reds manager Dusty Baker feels his club is prepared for the challenge.
"We're just getting closer to the end, and our guys are poised and ready," Baker said. "And we're getting some reinforcements back. I think our future's bright. We've just got to play baseball like we've been playing every day, and just ask for a little bit more. Just a little bit more on the side of hustle, on the side of smart play and on the side of playing fundamental baseball."
Bailey has won his last five decisions, spanning eight starts. In that stretch, he has a 2.44 ERA in 55 1/3 innings.
For the Brewers, Hellweg is coming off his first Major League win. He was shaky in his first stint in the Majors, but his last start against the Cubs was solid. Following his strong season at Triple-A, the Brewers are hoping Hellweg has a few more nice starts before the end of the season so he can go into the winter with some confidence.
Reds: Seeking strong road finale
The Reds started their final road trip of the season on Friday, and they came out of the opener with a 35-39 record away from Great American Ball Park. With eight road games to go, they'd have to go at least 6-2 to reach .500 on the road for the season.
"It's in our best interest to finish above .500 on the road, especially during this race," Baker said.
Brewers: Roenicke not divulging favorite
The Brewers are in the middle of a stretch in which they play 32 of 35 games against NL Central foes, so they've seen a lot of the Reds, Pirates and Cardinals -- the division's trio of contenders.
Asked for his favorite Friday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke balked.
"No, because I know who I think the best team is, but sometimes [that does not matter]," Roenicke said. "Take Pittsburgh, they play against St. Louis, and St. Louis beats them three games, and then [the Pirates] go to Texas and sweep. You really cannot figure it out. Some teams match up better against others."
• The Reds retain a 9-8 advantage in the season series between the two clubs as the 19-game set wraps up this weekend.
• The Brewers are 29-38 against NL Central foes this season, while the Reds are 37-31.
• Milwaukee is 32-40 at home with nine games at Miller Park remaining.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.