MILWAUKEE -- Back in playoff position -- though by the slimmest of margins -- the Milwaukee Brewers will try to put a disappointing road trip behind them and get back on track Monday night when they open a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park.
Milwaukee dropped three of five games on its short swing through Chicago and St. Louis. As a result, manager Craig Counsell's squad returns to action Monday 3 1/2 games back of the Cubs in the National League Central and just a half-game ahead of the Cardinals for the second NL wild-card spot.
"Honestly, these guys feel like they own some part of the Brewers, and they don't," Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress said of the Cardinals. "We showed them today that we're not going nowhere, we're still in second place, we're still going to fight."
The fight begins in a comfortable place for the Brewers, who are 34-29 at Miller Park this season. Milwaukee's pitching has been especially good at home, posting a 3.72 ERA while holding batters to a .231 average.
The Brewers will catch a break not having to face Joey Votto during the three-game set. The Reds first baseman was placed on the disabled list late last week after reporting lingering leg soreness from being hit by a pitch from the Washington Nationals' Ryan Madson on Aug. 4.
Votto is a .318 career hitter with 35 home runs, 108 RBIs and a 1.009 OPS in 166 games against the Brewers with a .345 average, 18 homers, 53 RBIs and a 1.092 OPS at Miller Park. He's 4-for-11 with a double, two walks and an RBI in three games in Milwaukee this year and batting .265 with a .742 OPS in 10 games against the Brewers overall.
Brewers right-hander Chase Anderson gets the start in the series opener. Counsell bumped him from his scheduled turn Sunday against the Cardinals to give him an extra day of rest in the hopes of snapping him out of a funk. Anderson has allowed four runs in each of his last two starts, failing to get through five innings in both outings.
"I feel like it's a good little breather for me, get refreshed and ready for an exciting six weeks," Anderson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of his extra rest. "I took some time off at the beginning (of the week), nothing really out of the ordinary.
"I still think we can get going and get the offense and the pitching clicking. We're going to get on a run."
Even with the Reds missing Votto, Anderson and the Brewers will have their work cut out for them against Cincinnatil, which is fresh off a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants that was fueled by a suddenly resurgent offense.
The Reds have 10 hits or more in four straight games. Second baseman Scooter Gennett has led that charge with multi-hit efforts in each of the last four games and is 10-for-17 during that stretch with two doubles, three RBIs, a walk and a run scored.
Gennett was among the NL batting leaders for much of the season. But after going into the All-Star break with a .326 average, 16 homers, 63 RBIs and an .894 OPS, he had hit .212 with two homers, six RBIs and a .589 OPS before his recent surge.
Gennett, Billy Hamilton, Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez combined for nine hits Sunday afternoon against the Giants.
"It's fun, man, especially when you have a lot of guys going at the same time," Hamilton said.