As the Milwaukee Brewers continue their push toward the postseason, they hope Matt Garza can be a key contributor down the stretch.
Looking to be more efficient than his first two starts following a month-long stint on the disabled list, Garza takes the mound Sunday in the decisive finale against the visiting Cincinnati Reds.
After allowing six runs and eight hits in three innings of a 6-2 loss at Wrigley Field on Sept. 3 in his return from dealing with an oblique strain, Garza (7-8, 3.83 ERA) yielded two runs and struck out seven but left after 84 pitches and four innings while not factoring in the decision of a 6-3 home defeat to Miami on Tuesday.
Despite the short outing, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke remains confident in Garza, who was 1-0 with an 0.86 ERA in three starts prior to going on the DL.
''His pitch count got high early,'' Roenicke said. ''But I thought he threw the ball well.''
Garza gave up five runs - one earned - over seven innings while not factoring in the decision of a 6-5 home loss to the Reds (71-78) on June 13. The next time he faced Cincinnati on July 5, Garza delivered his best outing of the season by striking out nine while tossing a two-hitter in a 1-0 victory at Great American Ballpark.
He'll try to help Milwaukee (77-72) bounce back after its three-game winning streak ended with a 5-1 loss Saturday. Aramis Ramirez homered for one of the two hits by the Brewers, who dropped an eighth straight home start by Yovani Gallardo, but still remain 1 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot in the NL.
Though Milwaukee enjoyed some success this week, it's averaged 2.6 runs during the current 4-14 stretch.
"It's hard to say what it is that's going to take us to bust out and swing the bat well,'' Roenicke said. ''I know we're facing tough pitching so I'm not expecting big numbers every night but I expect guys to swing the bat.''
Likely relegated to the role of spoilers, Cincinnati snapped a four-game road skid overall and against the Brewers by winning for the fourth time in five contests. David Holmberg pitched six strong innings to earn his first career win and Billy Hamilton delivered a two-run triple as the Reds won for the third time in eight games at Milwaukee this year.
Hamilton is batting .324 with three homers and eight RBIs in eight contests at Miller Park in 2014.
Cincinnati's Mike Leake (11-11, 3.62) didn't allow a run over 13 2-3 innings in his final two starts of August, but has yielded 10 in 10 innings while going 1-0 in two September outings. He gave up three of those runs and eight hits in six innings of a 9-5 win over St. Louis on Tuesday.
The right-hander is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA against the Brewers this season.
Milwaukee All-Stars Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez are a combined 11 for 21 with two doubles, a triple and a home run versus Leake in 2014.