Reds outfielder Jake Fraley looks to handle Milwaukee's best as the Brewers visit Cincinnati

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jake Fraley
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jake Fraley / G Fiume/GettyImages
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The race for 63 wins continues following the Cincinnati Reds (59-90) series split with the Boston Red Sox. After being eliminated from postseason play, the only real motivation the Redlegs have left is avoiding the embarrassing 100-loss threshold and the basement of the National League Central.

A difficult August has morphed into a frustrating September for Cincinnati. Following an encouraging 14-12 record in July, the Reds have stumbled to a 19-29 mark over the past two months. However, misery loves company and the Milwaukee Brewers (79-70) have been unlikely companions.

Since the calendar turned to August, Milwaukee has sported a surprisingly disappointing 22-25 record and find themselves in grave danger of missing the postseason for the first time since the 2017 season. However, the Philadelphia Phillies are doing everything possible to keep the Beer Makers playoff hopes alive.

While the Reds are eliminated, the Brewers still have their eyes on the playoffs.

Yesterday's victory over the New York Mets, coupled with the Phils' come-from-behind win over the Toronto Blue Jays, have brought the Brewers within 2.5 games of the third and final Wild Card slot in the National League Needless to say, Milwaukee will be playing for their postseason lives this weekend at Great American Ball Park.

If the Brew Crew is able to extend their playoff run to five consecutive campaigns, they'll have to rely heavily on their vaunted bullpen. Entering play yesterday, their 49 team saves trailed only the Atlanta Braves in the senior circuit.

Despite the deal at the trade deadline that sent closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres, former setup man Devin Williams has more than filled the vacancy. The right-hander has been phenomenal out of the Milwaukee bullpen compiling 13 saves with an incredible 86 punch outs in only 56.1 innings.

For the fifth time in the last six seasons, the Brewers have already clinched the series season against the Reds by winning 10 of the first 15 contests. However, the Reds have taken three of the last five games between the two clubs.

Previewing the pitching matchup: Reds vs. Brewers

Cincinnati Reds starter Hunter Greene vs. Milwaukee Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff

Hunter Greene (4-12 4.97 ERA) makes his first home start since July 26th in tonight's opener, while Brandon Woodruff (11-4 3.26 ERA) gets the call for the Milwaukee Brewers. How good was Greene in his first start in nearly six weeks? Spectacularly good.

Tossing six shutout innings versus the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, Greene hit triple digits on the radar gun a record 47 times in the Statcast era (since 2015.) Impressive outings have been the norm for the Reds rookie right-hander as of late. Over his last three starts, he's allowed just two runs and issued one free pass while fanning 25 in 18.1 frames.

When it comes to Brandon Woodruff, Reds Country can only conjure painful memories. The former two-time All-Star has whiffed 47 Redlegs in his last 27.2 innings between the two clubs. Needless to say, balls being into play will be at a premium with Greene and Woodruff on the mound.

Cincinnati Reds starter Graham Ashcraft vs. Milwaukee Brewers starter Corbin Burnes

Neither club has announced starters for Friday night's contest, but Graham Ashcraft (5-3 3.97 ERA) toes the rubber Saturday evening opposing reigning Cy Young Award-winner Corbin Burnes (10-8 3.12 ERA) for Craig Counsell's club.

Cincinnati's rookie right-hander will be making his first start since August 19th following a stint on the IL with biceps soreness. Before landing on the shelf, Ashcraft had worked into the sixth inning in five consecutive starts without yielding more than three earned runs.

If you thought Brandon Woodruff was tough, the Reds will have just as difficult a task facing Corbin Burnes. Milwaukee's ace is unbeaten in three starts lifetime versus Cincinnati and has allowed one run or fewer in the two of the trio of appearances.

Neither David Bell nor Craig Counsell have revealed their starters for Sunday's matinee series finale, though it would make sense for the Cincinnati Reds to turn to left-hander Nick Lodolo.

Jake 'The Rake' Fraley has been dominant for the Reds of late.

To call the Cincinnati outfield situation "unsettled" heading into the offseason is an understatement. However, as the Cincinnati Reds' brain trust turns their sights toward the 2023 campaign, there is a leader in the clubhouse for one of the three starting outfield positions.

It didn't appear likely in April, but Jake Fraley has emerged, as perhaps, the Reds' best option in next year's outfield. Over his last 30 games entering play last night, the LSU alum has produced an impressive .265/.356/.490 slash line.

Next, his 118 OPS+ ranks number one among all Reds on the active roster with at least 200 plate appearances. Additionally, since the All-Star break, Fraley leads Cincinnati with nine round-trippers, and his 23 RBIs trail only Kyle Farmer and Jonathan India for top honors on the club since the Midsummer Classic.

The key to securing an everyday spot in the Reds lineup next year for the left-handed slugger will be his ability to hit southpaws. Lefties have baffled Fraley in his limited opportunities this season. Collecting four hits in 27 at-bats versus left-handers, the 27-year-old has room for improvement.

Prediction: Reds and Brewers split the 4-game series.

These are two teams who couldn't be eyeing the end of the 2022 schedule more differently. The Milwaukee Brewers are fighting for their postseason lives while the Cincinnati Reds are looking at premium vacation packages.

Unfortunately, this will be a missed opportunity for the Beer Makers as the Redlegs salvage a split of the four-game set before embarking on their final road trip of the season with stops in Pittsburgh and Chicago's Wrigley Field.

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