1st-Place Brewers Sliding

Milwaukee's lead in the NL Central is quickly deteriorating and a struggling bullpen isn't helping. The Brewers hope a new addition will spark a turnaround.

Milwaukee tries to earn a split in its four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds when the teams meet Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.

The Brewers (56-45) held an 8 1/2-game lead in the division on June 23, but a 13-14 stretch has dwindled that advantage to just two games over the Chicago Cubs. That's the smallest Milwaukee's lead has been since it held a 1 1/2-game edge over Houston on April 22.

The Brewers have dropped four of their last six contests, including a 7-3 defeat on Wednesday. The bullpen is posting an 8.35 ERA during that stretch, prompting Milwaukee to acquire reliever Scott Linebrink from San Diego on Wednesday for three minor league pitchers.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Milwaukee -130 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on Milwaukee -130 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

"Our goal was to add depth to our bullpen," said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, whose team has dropped 10 of its last 14 road games. "We like our bullpen now, but over the course of the year - the dog days of summer - the bullpen tends to wear down. And we've been using our bullpen a lot."

The right-hander will be a set-up man for closer Francisco Cordero, who has converted 32 of 35 save chances. Linebrink went 3-3 with a 3.80 ERA in 44 games for the Padres and is expected to join Milwaukee Friday in St. Louis.

The Brewers hope for a lengthy outing from starter Dave Bush (8-8, 4.83) when he takes the mound on Thursday. The right-hander allowed three runs and six hits over six innings in an 8-0 defeat to San Francisco on Saturday.

He walked two and struck out seven in suffering just his second loss in his last seven decisions. Bush is trying to avoid dropping consecutive starts for the first time since May 19-25.

He has held opponents to three or fewer runs in six of his last seven starts, but has struggled versus the Reds, going 1-1 with a 6.67 ERA in five career outings.

He gave up four runs over five innings, but didn't receive a decision in an 11-5 defeat to Cincinnati (43-59) on April 17.

Jeff Keppinger hit a bases-loaded double for the Reds on Thursday and Adam Dunn had three hits to extend his hitting streak to a season-high 11 games. Closer David Weathers got the last six outs for his 20th save in 24 chances as the Reds improved to 22-27 at home with wins in six of their last seven games there.

Cincinnati has posted a 2.51 ERA over its last seven home contests and hopes Bobby Livingston (2-1, 3.52) can continue that trend on Thursday. The left-hander is making his third straight start and fifth of the season.

He gave up three runs and eight hits, including back-to-back homers, over six-plus innings in an 11-1 defeat to Florida on Saturday. Livingston didn't issue a walk and struck out a career-high five, but was disappointed with the homers he allowed.

"My focus on the game is I threw two bad pitches," said Livingston, who has never faced the Brewers. "That's unacceptable to me and that's unacceptable period."

Cincinnati may be without catcher David Ross and shortstop Pedro Lopez for this contest after both were injured Wednesday.

Ross dislocated the small finger on his right hand while sliding headfirst into second base on a fourth-inning double, while Lopez was hit by a pitch on the left side of the face and appeared to have broken a bone in his cheek, according to interim manager Pete Mackanin.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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