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The Cincinnati Reds have ascended from fourth to second place in the National League Central since the start of July while incrementally gaining ground on the Milwaukee Brewers.

It explains the significance of starting pitcher Wade Miley getting a chance to start the ninth inning on Friday.

Miley ultimately did not go the distance, but the Reds gained a significant victory over the Brewers.

Cincinnati hopes to shave another game off its deficit Saturday night when the teams continue a four-game series in Milwaukee.

The Reds were in fourth place and eight games behind the Brewers after dropping to 39-40 with a 7-5 home loss to the San Diego Padres on June 30.

Cincinnati is 7-2 since that point, with six victories coming by three runs or less. The hot streak has allowed the Reds to get within six games of the first-place Brewers heading into the penultimate contest before the All-Star break.

Cincinnati is playing the third of seven straight games with the Brewers through July 18 and is 4-1 in Milwaukee. Three of those wins have been when the Reds scored two runs, including Friday’s 2-0 victory, when Miley allowed seven hits in eight-plus innings.

“That’s a huge win for us,” Miley said. “That’s a big baseball game right there.”

Miley also hit a double and scored on an RBI double by Jesse Winker, who is 2-for-29 in his past seven games.

Milwaukee used an 11-game winning streak to go from a share of the lead to eight games up. During that streak, the Brewers scored 84 runs against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates.

“They’re a good team, we’re a good team, and it’s always going to be a good series,” Milwaukee starter Eric Lauer said of Cincinnati. “Runs are going to be tough to come by.”

The streak ended with last Sunday’s 2-0 loss in Pittsburgh.

Milwaukee has scored 15 times in its past six games. The Brewers were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position Friday.

Lauer combined for four of Milwaukee’s seven hits. Christian Yelich, who went 0-for-3, has four hits in his past 26 at-bats, with one RBI.

Friday also saw the Brewers run into a pair of outs on the bases in the late innings. Jace Peterson was thrown out by Winker from left field trying to stretch a single into a double in the seventh, and Willy Adames was called for interference on a slide at second in the eighth on a sharp grounder by Yelich.

Right-hander Freddy Peralta (7-3, 2.23 ERA), who owns a 1.62 ERA in his past 10 starts, looks to shake off a tough-luck loss in his last outing. He allowed two runs on three hits in six innings during Sunday’s loss at Pittsburgh.

“He’s having a heck of a year,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said of Peralta, who was named to the All-Star team as a replacement for Brandon Woodruff. “He’s one of the top pitchers in the National League, starter or reliever.”

Peralta is 0-1 with a 2.87 ERA in three outings versus the Reds this season. He also is 2-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 13 career appearances (seven starts) against Cincinnati.

Rookie right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez (4-3, 4.67), who pitched well against Milwaukee in two starts last month, makes his ninth career start. He allowed two runs in a 7-3 win over the Brewers on June 9 and two in a 10-2 victory five nights later.

Since the starts against the Brewers, he is 1-2 with a 4.60 ERA in his past four starts. Gutierrez last pitched Monday in Kansas City, when he allowed two runs on five hits in six innings during a 6-2 win.

–Field Level Media