(SportsNetwork.com) - Two starters dueling for National League All-Star recognition face off against each in a holiday matchup on Friday night.
Milwaukee ace Kyle Lohse and Cincinnati surprise Alfredo Simon will be the pitchers of record to begin matters when the Brewers visit the Reds for the first of three games at Great American Ball Park.
Simon had been used only in relief for two seasons, but has thrived as a starter while first-year manager Bryan Price -- his former pitching coach -- juggled an injury riddled staff. Simon spelled Mat Latos to begin 2014 and has emerged as the team's leader with 10 victories.
He's thrown six innings and allowed three earned runs or less in 14 of 16 starts, and has lasted seven innings while giving up a single run in each of his last two. The most recent one came Saturday at San Francisco in a game the Reds ultimately won, 7-3, in 11 innings.
Lohse, meanwhile, is already just two wins away from matching last season's total and is holding foes to a .235 batting average -- 38 points beneath his career mark.
Lohse allowed a run in seven innings last Friday in a game the Brewers won in the ninth, 3-2.
He's 3-1 in 10 starts against Cincinnati since 2010 and his 1.88 earned run average in those games is his lowest against any team he's met more than once.
Cincinnati trails the Brewers by seven games in the National League's Central Division after dropping three consecutive games at San Diego. It had won 14 of its prior 18 games.
"It was a missed opportunity," Price said. "You have to be resilient in the baseball season. But it hurts, it hurts quite a bit to have this type of opportunity to come in and not to just be able to take a game or two in the series."
The Reds are 5-2 against Milwaukee this season.
"They're the No. 1 team in the division right now," outfielder Billy Hamilton said. "It would be big for us to come in and to get these wins."
On Wednesday in Toronto, Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run, walk-off homer to lift the Blue Jays over the Brewers, 7-4, at Rogers Centre.
Ryan Braun drove in a pair of runs to lead the Brewers, who have dropped three straight after winning four in a row.
In San Diego, Tyson Ross pitched his first career shutout and received some rare run support from the Padres, who came through with a 3-0 victory over the Reds to earn their first series sweep of the season.
Johnny Cueto (8-6) kept San Diego off the board for most of his seven-inning stint and notched eight strikeouts in a hard-luck loss for the inconsistent Reds, who had won four straight at NL West-leading San Francisco.