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CHC@CIN: Leake K's seven over seven strong innings

Going into the All-Star break, the Reds were on the rise, and the Brewers were trying to avoid catastrophe. From July 4 -- when the two clubs met for the opener of a three-game set at Great American Ball Park -- through July 13, Cincinnati won eight of 11 and Milwaukee dropped eight of 10 to end the first half of the season. That shrank the gap between them in the National League Central from seven games to 1 1/2.

But things have gone in the opposite direction for the two clubs since then. The Reds haven't won a game since the All-Star break, losing a season-high five straight following the Midsummer Classic for the first time since 1991, when they took eight straight losses.

"Guys are playing hard, just not playing terribly well right now," Reds manager Bryan Price said after his team's series-opening loss on Monday and before Tuesday's 4-3 defeat. "There's not a whole lot of things we've done terribly well since we came back from the All-Star break, unfortunately."

Meanwhile, the Brewers have not only won three of five, but two of those three wins have come at Cincinnati's expense in the first two games of their three-game set at Miller Park. The result is that the Reds now find themselves 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Brewers in the NL Central.

Cincinnati hopes that right-hander Mike Leake can get the club in the win column in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon. Leake is looking to turn things around personally as well; since posting a 2.16 ERA in six May starts, he's gone 4-4 with a 4.58 ERA. In his most recent outing, on Friday, he allowed four runs on eight hits over seven innings in a loss to the Yankees.

The Brewers will give the ball to veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse, who has been their most reliable starter in 2014. He's also pitched well against the Reds throughout his career, going into Wednesday's start with a 5-5 record and a 3.01 ERA in 17 starts against them. He's faced Cincinnati twice this season, and is 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA.

In his previous start, on Friday against the Nationals, he yielded one run while scattering 10 hits over seven innings to earn his 10th win of the season.

"That's what pitching is about, though," Lohse said of his gritty effort, which involved leadoff hits in five of his seven frames. "When you don't have your best stuff, you still have to make pitches."

Reds: Sticking with eight-man bullpen for now
Price said on Tuesday that despite starters Mat Latos and Homer Bailey making their first post-All-Star-break starts without issue following injuries that caused each to exit his prior outing, the Reds will stay with an eight-man bullpen for the time being.

Cincinnati has been playing a man short on the bench for about two weeks, but based on what's available in the Minors, Price would rather go with the active roster as currently configured.

"That's simply a way of making sure we stay strong and not overtaxed in our bullpen or rotation," he said. "Those guys that are on the [40-man] roster [in the Minors], can they help us in a more significant way by playing? Or can we expect them to thrive as bench players that start once in seven to 10 games and get a small handful of pinch-hitting opportunities? I don't know if we have that guy in the system right now."

Brewers: Lucroy plays through slump, confident he'll snap out of it
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy was batting .340 on June 17, but since then has seen his average dip.

But Lucroy, one of the Brewers' most potent offensive threats, is confident that he'll snap out of his recent funk without the need for too many breaks despite the daily grind of being a Major League backstop.

He took a big step in the right direction with Tuesday's 2-for-4, two-homer performance, which included a walk-off shot to win it in the ninth.

"I feel pretty good, body-wise, I feel sharp and everything. It's just one of those things that happens," Lucroy said before the game. "You can't hit .350 all year. It's kind of hard. There's pretty good pitchers out there. Just keep playing hard.

"You don't make any money if you don't play, so I've got to go out there and play every day. I feel that I can compete at the highest level every day I go out there, barring a broken bone or I'm bleeding somewhere. I feel like I should be in the lineup every day."

Worth noting
• Since the All-Star break, the Reds are batting .186 as a team.

• Cincinnati's Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart have had success against Lohse. Bruce is 10-for-37 with three doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBIs, and Cozart is 7-for-24 with a triple and two RBIs.

• Lucroy, Carlos Gomez and Rickie Weeks have had success against Leake. Lucroy is 7-for-20 with a double, a home run and two RBIs; Gomez is 4-for-12 with a double and an RBI; and Weeks is 5-for-12 with a double, a triple, two home runs and three RBIs.

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