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CIN@SF: Simon holds Giants to one run over seven

The Brewers have been in first place in the National League Central since April 9, and despite losing their last three games, they are enjoying a comfortable lead in the division as the All-Star break nears.

But one division foe they've had trouble with this season is the Reds. Milwaukee has lost five of seven contests against Cincinnati in 2014, dropping two of three at Miller Park from June 13-15, the only series loss for the Brewers from May 23-June 22.

While the Brewers hope to reverse that trend in the weekend's three-game series at Great American Ball Park, the Reds look to take advantage of the head-to-head matchup with the division leaders and shave down their deficit in the NL Central. Despite having won 20 of 32 games entering Thursday, Cincinnati had only gained one game on the Brewers in that span.

"They're the No. 1 team in the division right now," said Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton. "It would be big for us to come in and to get these wins and we can control what they do. We control what we do. For us to play them and beat them, it'd be great for us."

Both teams are coming off series in which they were swept: Milwaukee dropped both games in a two-game set with Toronto, while the Reds lost three games to the Padres.

One player to watch in this weekend's divisional matchup will be Hamilton. The speedy outfielder was named the NL Rookie of the Month for June, and he said he feels like he's gotten a better grasp at the plate.

"I think I'm more relaxed. Lately, I've been seeing a lot more pitches than I had been seeing," Hamilton said. "I'm getting a feel of how the pitcher is going to pitch me. It's the second time around [against some teams]. I'm not just swinging at a lot of bad pitches now.

"I saw how they pitched me the first time and what I did against those pitchers. Seeing pitchers the second time around is good."

The Reds will send 10-game winner Alfredo Simon to the hill for Friday's series opener. Simon was a perfect 4-0 with a 2.66 ERA in six June starts, continuing to be a more-than-pleasant surprise since being made the fifth starter at outset of the season as Mat Latos recovered from injuries.

The right-hander has a 3.60 ERA in 10 career appearances against the Brewers, including one start. That start came on May 4, when he allowed three runs on five hits over seven innings in a no-decision.

Simon's counterpart that afternoon will also be his opponent on Friday, as the Brewers will give the ball to veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse. Seeking his team-best 10th win, Lohse is coming off a strong start against the Rockies at Miller Park last Friday, in which he allowed one run on seven hits over seven innings, receiving a no-decision as Ryan Braun gave Milwaukee a walk-off win with a single in the ninth.

Despite leaving the game with the lead and having it blown by the bullpen for the fifth time this season, Lohse was happy the team won the contest -- its 50th of the season -- even though he didn't figure into the decision.

In 16 career starts against the Reds, Lohse is 5-4 with a 2.89 ERA. Against Simon and Cincinnati on May 4, he settled for a no-decision after tossing 6 1/3 innings and yielding two runs on eight hits.

Brewers: Davis hopes to be back in lineup on Friday
Left fielder Khris Davis missed Wednesday's series finale against the Blue Jays in Toronto after tweaking a muscle near his left shoulder on Tuesday. He left Tuesday's game in the seventh following a head-first slide into second base, but said he felt better on Wednesday and hopes to be back in action for Friday's series opener.

"It was a tight, grabbing sensation. It's definitely more in my pec than my shoulder," Davis said. "I think it was a little strain, but I don't think it popped or tore. So it's a mild strain. ... As long as I'm not feeling worse [I should be back Friday]. I woke up, got stretched out and massaged, and, whew, I feel comfortable."

Davis leads Milwaukee with 10 home runs since May 19, and he leads the NL with 32 RBIs in 39 games since then. Over that span, his batting average increased from .215 to .260.

Reds: Ondrusek searching for consistency
Reliever Logan Ondrusek has been searching for consistency. There are times when he seems close, but then games like Tuesday happen.

In the 8-2 loss to the Padres, Ondrusek entered what was a two-run game and gave up four runs and two hits, including Carlos Quentin's two-run homer. After the homer, he walked Yasmani Grandal.

"It's been more of a challenge to get him into a groove, in large part because there's times he comes in and he's very sharp, and other times where he's not," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Wednesday. "It's been hard to get him on a roll or keep him on an extended roll."

Ondrusek has a 4.76 ERA in 27 games with 35 hits, 13 walks and 25 strikeouts over 28 1/3 innings. He has stranded 13 of 19 inherited runners. In Ondrusek's last 12 appearances before Tuesday, he had a 1.26 ERA and had given up six walks with 14 strikeouts over 14 1/3 innings.

Worth noting:
• The Brewers have won 10 of their last 14 road games, and they are an MLB-best 27-17 away from home this season.

• Jonathan Lucroy is 4-for-6 (.667) with a home run against Simon, while Carlos Gomez is 3-for-7 (.429) with two doubles against the right-hander. Both Davis (2-for-4) and Scooter Gennett (2-for-6) have homered twice against Simon.

• Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart have all had success against Lohse. Votto is 10-for-30 (.333) with three doubles and a home run against the right-hander. Bruce is 10-for-34 (.294) with three doubles, a triple, a homer and six RBIs. Cozart is 7-for-22 (.318) with a triple.

Todd Frazier has struggled against Lohse, going 1-for-12 (.083) against him.

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