Just when the Cincinnati Reds finally had their full arsenal on offense, they may have lost a big piece for a key road trip.
Though the status of Brandon Phillips is uncertain, Cincinnati might like its chances of having a positive start to a series with the Milwaukee Brewers as Homer Bailey takes the hill Friday night.
After three games against the team they're chasing for the NL Central lead, the Reds (31-34) play three at division rival Pittsburgh. Cincinnati won three of four at home May 1-4 in its only series with Milwaukee (40-27) but has lost nine of 13 at Miller Park.
"I think it would be great to go in there and beat up on these next two opponents and do some positive things for our position in the division," manager Bryan Price told the team's official website.
Another plus would be seeing Phillips on the field. The All-Star second baseman left in the eighth inning of Thursday's 4-1 win over the Dodgers due to an injured right index finger, suffered earlier in the game fielding a grounder.
"It was fairly uncomfortable, especially swinging the bat," Price said.
Phillips' .270 average and 23 RBIs are far from stellar but rank third on a Cincinnati team which is second-to-last in the majors in runs (221), partly due to health issues.
Devin Morasco, batting .303, came off the disabled list May 16, Jay Bruce was activated a week later and Joey Votto returned Tuesday after missing 23 games. While Votto is 4 for 10 since coming back, Bruce has regained his stroke in June with a .273 average, two home runs and seven RBIs in 10 games. He batted .197 with three homers through his first 38.
Bailey (7-3, 4.60 ERA) also appears to have turned things around, winning four straight starts with a 3.00 ERA. He had a 5.44 ERA through his first nine outings as opponents hit .303 against him.
"I knew all along, even from the beginning, just give me a little bit of time and let me get my rhythm back," Bailey said after giving up one run in eight innings of Sunday's 4-1 win over Philadelphia.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in his last four starts against the Brewers and beat them May 1, going eight innings in an 8-3 victory.
Phillips was 6 for 12 in that series, during which the Brewers were held to 10 runs and a .186 average despite Jonathan Lucroy going 6 for 14.
Lucroy has remained hot, batting .436 with seven extra-base hits in his last 10 games, and delivered the tiebreaking two-run homer in the 13th inning of Thursday's 5-1 win over the Mets.
"Glad we could win and get out of here on a good note," Lucroy said after Milwaukee capped a 5-3 road trip.
Lucroy turns 28 on Friday and could backstop Matt Garza (4-4, 4.42) to a third straight win after the right-hander went 1-2 with a 5.56 ERA in his previous six starts. Five days after striking out eight in 6 1-3 scoreless innings against Minnesota, Garza wasn't as effective Saturday at Pittsburgh as he gave up three runs and five walks in six innings of a 9-3 victory.
"Personal wins are nice, but the team winning is what really matters, and all I want to do is keep stacking up those team wins," Garza said.
He hasn't faced the Reds since two dreadful starts with the Cubs last year, giving up 13 runs and 13 hits - four homers - in nine innings.
Votto and Bruce both went deep off Garza and are a combined 10 for 31 against him.
Rickie Weeks is 14 for 27 against Bailey.