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SD@CIN: Leake strikes out four over seven frames

With a month and a half to play in the regular season, the Reds and Brewers find themselves in much different positions in the National League Central race.

While Cincinnati nips at the heels of St. Louis and first-place Pittsburgh, the Crew is battling the Cubs to avoid the distinction of being the division's worst team. At this point in the season, though, the Reds -- who will look for their sixth straight win when they take on the Brewers on Friday at Miller Park -- aren't very concerned with where their opponents sit in the standings.

"We just need to focus on winning each series at hand," Cincinnati left fielder Ryan Ludwick said. "Whether it's the Brewers, Pirates, the Cubs, the Cardinals, whoever it might be. As long as we continue to win series, we're going to be in a spot to make the playoffs."

The Reds enter Friday just a half-game behind the Cardinals and 2 1/2 behind the Pirates, while holding a six-game advantage in the race for the second NL Wild Card. Cincinnati has started to heat up recently, thanks in part to a seven-game road trip that first saw the club sweep the Cubs before heading to Milwaukee, where the Reds took Game 1 of a four-game series on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Thursday marked the beginning of a tough stretch for the Brewers, who will take on NL Central foes in 31 of their next 34 games, with the only exception being a series against the Angels at the end of August. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said he doesn't like to look ahead on the schedule, but he knows his club has a long road ahead with so many games against division opponents.

"You look at the teams [at the top of the division], and this team that we're playing," Roenicke said, referring to the Reds. "They can be capable of being as good as anyone in baseball."

Roenicke said the Brewers will have a shot to be successful the next month if their pitching can continue to perform well. On Friday, he'll turn to lefty Tom Gorzelanny, who is coming off consecutive scoreless appearances. After going 1-3 in his first four starts as part of the rotation, Gorzelanny gave up just one hit in five scoreless innings against the Nationals. He followed that up by blanking the Mariners for seven frames, allowing three hits and two walks while striking out seven.

His counterpart on Friday, Reds right-hander Mike Leake, tossed a seven-inning shutout of his own on July 29. However, he followed that up by giving up seven runs on eight hits and two walks to the Cardinals. He recovered for his last start, surrendering just one earned run in seven innings on Sunday.

Leake likely hopes Friday's start resembles his first appearance against the Brewers this season on July 10, when he went 8 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and four walks along the way.

Brewers: Gomez scheduled for MRI on right knee
Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez made another highlight-reel catch on Thursday against the Reds. Unfortunately, it might cost him more than it was worth, as he suffered a right knee sprain after colliding with the center-field wall at Miller Park.

Before the Brewers take on the Reds on Friday, Gomez will under go an MRI exam to further investigate the injury.

Gomez's catch robbed Brandon Phillips of a hit and accounted for the first out of the fourth inning. After his lower back hit the wall on his way down, Gomez stayed down briefly before leaving the field with a Brewers athletic trainer.

This marks the second time this season Gomez has made a great catch that led to an injury, as the first-time All-Star missed a few games in June with a sprained left shoulder.

Reds: Strength tests upcoming for Cueto, Marshall
The Reds hope to know more soon about potential returns for injured pitchers Johnny Cueto and Sean Marshall.

Head trainer Paul Lessard said Thursday that Cueto and Marshall will likely undergo strength tests before the current road trip ends on Sunday, giving the team a better idea of when the two pitchers can take the next step in working their way back.

"If all goes well, then they start throwing programs," Lessard said. "Knock on wood, that's what we're hoping to do when we get home."

Cueto (strained right lat) hasn't pitched since June 28, while Marshall (sprained left shoulder) has been out of action since May 20. Lessard said he likes the way Cueto and Marshall have responded to their rehab programs, but the tests will indicate just how well they are doing.

Worth noting
• Although the Reds have won six of their last eight series against the Brewers, Milwaukee has won five of the last six played at Miller Park.

• With a 69-52 record, the Reds enter Friday a season-high 17 games over .500.

• The Reds own a 7-3 record this season against the Brewers, who haven't won the season series against Cincinnati since 2006.

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