The remainder of this season for the Milwaukee Brewers likely will be defined by how well they perform after trading All-Star closer Josh Hader.
The Brewers didn't respond well initially, losing three straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they might seem a bit more cheerful heading into their game against the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.
Milwaukee won 5-1 in the series opener on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak, their first victory since dispatching Hader to the San Diego Padres on Monday.
"We kind of brought it upon ourselves," Brewers first baseman Rowdy Tellez said of the streak. "We didn't play our best in every facet of the game."
Before Friday's game, Milwaukee's president of baseball operations, David Stearns, defended his decision to trade Hader, one the team's most popular and successful players.
"When you make a move, again, that takes away a very recognizable, prominent figure within the organization, someone who's contributed to a lot of the success that we've had here, I understand why there's going to be a reaction," Stearns said. "I also have heard from a lot of fans that trust our organization, believe in our organization, and believe that if we're making a decision like this, we have an interest of winning in mind."
Devin Williams has taken over the ninth-inning role for the Brewers, and he struck out the final two batters with two runners aboard on Friday to earn his seventh save of the season.
Williams likely won't be available on Saturday because he has pitched on three straight days, however.
On Saturday, the Brewers are scheduled to face rookie left-hander Nick Lodolo.
Lodolo (3-3, 4.23 ERA) finished up July impressively. He went six innings in each of his past two starts and allowed a combined one earned run.
He was not credited with the win his last time out, even though he departed with a 2-0 lead against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday after walking the leadoff batter in the seventh.
The inherited runner ended up scoring and the Orioles tied the score in the eighth before the Reds eventually won 3-2.
"I thought (Lodolo) was really good," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "We didn't have a whole lot of chances offensively until he was out of the game. He's got a really good arm and (he's) a good looking young starting pitcher."
Lodolo said the key for him has been staying aggressive in the strike zone.
"I'm trying to fill up the zone," he said. "The biggest thing is letting my stuff work inside the zone. I know if I do that, it'll probably be a good day."
Lodolo, whom the Reds selected with the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2019, has not faced Milwaukee.
The Brewers plan to start left-hander Aaron Ashby (2-9, 4.13).
In his only MLB appearance against the Reds, Ashby was credited with his lone hold of the season in a 6-3 win on May 3, allowing two hits and striking out three in 2 1/3 shutout innings.
In his most recent outing, Ashby did not allow an earned run over 4 2/3 innings, but the Boston Red Sox scored five unearned runs off of him in the 7-2 win on Sunday.
--Field Level Media