Yovani Gallardo will make his first start in more than two weeks Saturday at Miller Park, as the Brewers right-hander looks to make a successful return from a strained left hamstring while also trying to slow down a Reds team aiming for its sixth win in its last seven tries.
Gallardo left in the fifth inning of a July 30 start against the Cubs after aggravating the hamstring, which had been bothering him since before the All-Star break, while making a diving catch. In his return -- the Brewers optioned right-hander Donovan Hand to Triple-A Nashville to make room -- Gallardo has a chance to get his record back to .500, though he'll likely have to be much better than he was before the injury.
After back-to-back shutout performances in mid-June and a third in which he allowed three runs, none of which were earned, Gallardo went 2-3 with a 7.22 ERA in his next seven starts, including the no-decision he took against the Cubs.
Because of the injury, Gallardo is almost certain to fall short of 200 innings pitched for the first time since 2010, and he likely won't reach 200 strikeouts for the first time since '08, when he lost nearly all of the season to a knee injury. With that, and the fact that he was working with a diminished velocity earlier this season, Gallardo said the two weeks off might end up being a blessing in disguise for the 27-year-old hurler.
"I think it does [refresh the arm]," Gallardo said. "Especially late in the season, it's not easy going out there every five days and throwing 100 pitches. You never want to get a break [because of injury], but when certain things happen, it can be a good thing."
The Brewers scheduled Gallardo's return so that he would avoid seeing the Cardinals (1-10, 6.78 ERA for his career). As a result, Saturday marks the first of two consecutive starts opposite the Reds, against whom Gallardo is 6-6 with a 4.53 ERA.
He'll face a team that has outscored opponents, 24-14, in its last seven games, despite Friday's 7-6 walk-off loss. Gallardo will also have to outduel a pitcher who hasn't given up a run in his past two starts.
Reds right-hander Mat Latos, undefeated since early July, tossed 7 1/3 shutout innings against the A's on Aug. 6 and followed it up with his best start of the season Monday, when he blanked the Cubs for eight innings, giving up six hits and striking out nine. In five starts since the All-Star break, Latos is 4-0 with a 1.32 ERA.
Latos, who picked up a win against the Brewers in May despite surrendering six earned runs on nine hits, said he didn't have to shake off catcher Devin Mesoraco one time in his last start, as the batterymates have found a good rhythm.
"Tonight, I had real good stuff," Latos said after his gem against the Cubs. "I was able to rely on the fastball and slider the whole game."
Brewers: Halton recalled, Gomez hopes to avoid DL
The Brewers received good news Friday, when an MRI exam indicated center fielder Carlos Gomez should be able to avoid the disabled list after spraining his right knee while making an outstanding catch in Thursday's loss to the Reds.
Although Gomez needed crutches to move around the clubhouse Friday, he is listed as day-to-day.
"I feel worse today, but it's because of the swelling and the new injury," Gomez said. "It's something that feels really bad one day, and then the next day, you feel really good. You can recover real fast, because there's not any damage to anything. That's really good news."
In the meantime, Milwaukee will utilize the services of infielder/outfielder Sean Halton. Seldom used right-hander Alfredo Figaro was optioned to Nashville, where he will likely be a starter so he has a chance to work on his offspeed pitches, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Reds: Hoover extends scoreless streak
Reds reliever J.J. Hoover only faced two batters Friday night, but he now enters Saturday with the Majors' longest active scoreless streak among relievers in terms of both appearances (22) and innings (25 1/3).
Atlanta reliever Luis Avilan held the previous active mark with 26 straight appearances without a run, but he surrendered an earned in the Braves' 3-2 win Friday.
Hoover entered Friday's game with one out in the eighth inning and quickly struck out Yuniesky Betancourt, then forced Norichika Aoki to pop out to the catcher in foul territory. The 26-year-old right-hander's streak dates back to June 9, when he allowed six runs on four hits and two walks in just two-thirds of an inning against the Cardinals.
Arthur Rhodes holds the Reds' longest scoreless streak by a reliever, as he went 33 appearances without allowing a run in 2010, tying the Major League record. Hoover is one scoreless outing away from Aroldis Chapman's mark of 23, which he accomplished last season.
• With a win Saturday, the Reds will have won or at least tied seven of their last nine series against the Brewers, including four of the last five.
• The Brewers enter Saturday with a 6-2 record in the last eight games against the Reds at Miller Park.
• Brewers first baseman Juan Francisco hit his 18th home run of the season on Friday. Since June 25, he has more homers (12) than anyone else in the National League.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.