Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers haven’t been the most consistently competitive teams in recent memory. They have combined for just two NL Central titles in the last decade and had to go through unkind periods of rebuilding in order to reach their current places of contenders.
However, the Reds and the Brewers had one of the most interesting rivalries right at the end of the 2010s decade. Honestly, it didn’t have the magnitude, outside factors or anything else notable like most fierce rivalries in baseball. It outright featured competitive and quality production on the field, and, by the early stages of the 2019 season, it was already clear that it was a must-watch divisional matchup.
2018-2019 Milwaukee Brewers
The former Marlin won NL MVP in 2018, pushing his team towards first NL Central title in 7 years and reaching the NL Championship Series. Since coming to Wisconsin, the California native has been one of the best players in baseball, batting .327 with 80 homeruns and 1.046 OPS during his time as a Brewer.
The rest of the Brewers roster was pretty talented but unbalanced. The Brewers were decent offensively, establishing a core of Yelich and Ryan Braun, and adding Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal via free agency, in addition to Keston Hiura, the most successful fruit of the Brewers’ farm system which has been disappointing since.
2018-2019 Cincinnati Reds
After the 2017 season, the Reds promoted Nick Krall to general manager of the organisation. He made it known that he was going to adopt an aggressive approach on the free-agent market and was going to use lower-tier prospects in trades.
The plan is working so far. Cincinnati finished under .500 in both seasons with Krall under charge but has been able to make constant and methodical upgrades to a club that had the second overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.
What proves the on-field improvement is the performance of their rotation in 2019. Sony Gray, acquired in a trade with the Yankees, and Tanner Roark, signed to a one-year deal, joined Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani in a group that dominated on the mound and ranked 9th in starters ERA.
The batting lineup was headlined by Eugenio Suarez, who finished 2019 second in homeruns, and failed to deliver in 2019, holding the team back, despite the rotation that the Reds had.
The head-to-head record – 24-14 Brewers
A ten-game advantage for Milwaukee might not seem like the most competitive series of games between the two NL Central rivals. The truth is that the real “shootout” was from the second half of 2018 onwards.
The 2019 season also belonged to the Brewers but this time they won 11 and lost 8 games against the Reds. In two years and 38 games between the Brewers and the Reds, in only 8 the winning team prevailed by 5+ runs, including just three in 2019.
Aug 29th, 2018: Milwaukee 13, Cincinnati 12 (10 innings)
Universally considered the Game of the Year for 2018, the clash between the 74-60 Brewers and 57-76 Reds went on and beyond.
Yelich’s cycle, a part of 6-for-6 batting night, was just the cherry on the top.
Michael Lorenzen launched a three-run shot in the bottom of the sixth to establish the biggest lead of the night for either club. The Brewers responded with a two-run homer by Jonathan Schoop, a scoring double by Lorenzo Cain and a run-scoring triple by Yelich to complete the cycle. A homerun by Jesus Aguilar and an RBI single by catcher Erik Kratz gave the road team a 13-11 lead in the top of the 10th which they ended up holding on to, winning a thriller at Great American Ballpark.
July 2nd, 2019: Cincinnati 6, Milwaukee 5 (11 innings)
This game will be remembered by a throwing error by Yelich in right field which helped bring Yasiel Puig home for the winning run in the bottom of the 11th at GABP. The Brewers had a 4-2 lead in the 7th but Puig and Votto made it level again with long balls in the next two innings to prevent starting pitcher Tanner Roark from recording a loss after solid 6.2 innings.
July 4th, 2019: Cincinnati 1, Milwaukee 0
In a terrific Independence Day pitching matchup, Luis Castillo brought a no-hitter into the 7th innings, only to lose it to a Keston Hiura single into centerfield. Castillo left after 7.2 innings, allowing just 1 hit and one base on ball in one of his strongest starts of 2019. Meanwhile, a Puig infield single in the first inning was enough for Jesse Winker to score the deciding run of the game.
Christian Yelich became the first player in Major League history to complete not one but two cycles in a single season against a single opponent against the Reds in 2018. He did it on August 30th, 2018 (13-12 MIL win) and September 18th, 2018 (8-0 MIL win).