Exactly one month since he last took the field for the Brewers, Ryan Braun is expected to make his return to the lineup against the Reds on Tuesday at Miller Park.
Sidelined with an inflamed nerve in his right hand that forced him out of a June 9 game against the Phillies, Braun came off the disabled list on Monday and was available to pinch-hit. He didn't, however, making Tuesday his anticipated comeback.
In 57 games before hitting the DL, Braun batted .304 with nine homers and 36 RBIs. Without their star left fielder, the Brewers went 11-15, including Monday's 4-3 win over the Reds.
Although Braun is set to make his return, he said his hand still is not at 100 percent, and it likely won't be all season. However, he said it has felt good of late, and he doesn't anticipate that playing will worsen the injury.
Milwaukee will need Braun's bat against the Reds and starting pitcher Tony Cingrani, especially considering Braun's roster spot opened up after the Brewers put third baseman and cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez back on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left knee. It will be the second DL stint of the season for Ramirez, who is expected back shortly after the All-Star break.
"It's been a challenging year for all of us, obviously, health-wise," Braun said. "But I'm just excited to go back out there, and I'm looking forward to competing again. Ultimately, whoever is out there is expected to contribute to winning. Hopefully we start winning more games."
Braun and the Brewers, who will send Wily Peralta to the mound on Tuesday, enter the second game of a three-game set facing a considerable deficit in the National League Central. The Reds, however, find themselves right near the top. Even with Monday's loss, Cincinnati remained four games out of first place, thanks to an Oakland win over Pittsburgh, which actually put the idle St. Louis in first place by a half-game.
The Reds weathered a recent nine-game winning streak by the Pirates to stay within striking distance, and manger Dusty Baker would like to see his team reel off a few more wins of its own to put the pressure on the division leaders heading into the break.
"You want to cut into it, but a lot of it has to do with you winning and them losing," Baker said. "At worst, you want to maintain where you are and hopefully cut into it."
Reds: Cingrani faces Brewers for second time
Cingrani, who has been filling in for Johnny Cueto during his trips to the DL this season, has some experience to draw upon before facing the Brewers on Tuesday, as he took a no-decision against Milwaukee after four innings of work on May 10 at Great American Ball Park. Cingrani cruised through the first three innings of that game before Jean Segura homered in the fourth, immediately followed by a Braun home run in the next at-bat.
Since then, Cingrani has made three starts and five appearances out of the bullpen. In the three starts, Cingrani was 1-0 with a 3.57 ERA, most recently allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Giants on July 3.
• The Reds head into Tuesday's game battling injury issues at catcher, as Ryan Hanigan was scratched from Monday's lineup with irritation in his left wrist. X-rays came back negative, but he was replaced by Devin Mesoraco, who missed the two previous games with back spasms.
Brewers: Peralta ready to return to mound
Peralta had his last start cut short by a strained left hamstring, but after two extra days of rest, he doesn't expect that to be an issue when he takes on the Reds on Tuesday.
"I feel pretty good," Peralta said. "I've been running on the field. Did a couple of sprints today, and it feels 100 percent. I don't feel anything right now. It's going to be ready tomorrow."
Peralta was in the midst of one of his best outings of the season on July 2, when he gave up three hits in 5 1/3 scoreless innings. He was then forced out of the game by the injured hamstring, which he later said was feeling tight beginning in the third inning.
It's been an up-and-down year for Peralta, who enters his 19th start with a 5-9 record to go with a 5.27 ERA. He tossed seven innings of shutout ball on June 21 against the Braves, but he's also surrendered five or more runs on four different occasions this season. The 24-year-old right-hander is set to make his second start against the Reds on Tuesday, after allowing three runs in six innings in Cincinnati on May 12.
• The Reds bullpen hasn't allowed a run since June 28 against the Rangers. With Logan Ondrusek and J.J. Hoover keeping the Brewers off the board on Monday, Cincinnati relievers have given up just eight hits and no runs in the last 23 innings.
• The Brewers and Reds are an even 58-58 all-time in Milwaukee.
• Entering Tuesday's game against Cingrani, the Brewers are just 8-22 against lefty starters this season.
• The Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy has homered in three straight games, and his 48 RBIs this season rank second beyond only Buster Posey among all Major League catchers.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.