The surging Cincinnati Reds are assured of still being in first place in the National League Central at the end of the weekend. But the Pittsburgh Pirates could make things much more interesting. The Reds enter Friday’s three-game series opener at Great American Ballpark with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Pirates, who are attempting to break a 20-year playoff drought. At 17-3 since the All-Star break, Cincinnati is the hottest team in the majors.
No slouches themselves, the Pirates have won 11 of their last 16 and lead the NL wild card standings. Pittsburgh took two of three at Wrigley Field earlier in the week, winning the last two games by a combined score of 13-4. The Pirates made a series of small moves at the trade deadline and are hoping the likes of Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider can provide some punch in the lineup. The most surprising thing about the Reds’ surge is that it has happened without the help of MVP candidate Joey Votto, who has been out since July 16 after knee surgery and will miss the weekend.
Pirates Reds Betting
When: 7:10 PM ET, Friday, August 3, 2012
Where: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSOH (Cincinnati)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates LH Wandy Rodriguez (7-9, 3.82 ERA) vs. Reds RH Mat Latos (9-3, 4.17)
Rodriguez made his first start for Pittsburgh at Houston last weekend and struggled with his command, issuing five walks while allowing three runs in six innings. The veteran left-hander is winless over his last four starts, including a loss against Cincinnati on July 23 in which he surrendered three runs in six frames. Rodriguez is 8-10 with a 4.42 ERA in 26 career starts against the Reds.
Latos is coming off one of his better efforts last week, when he struck out eight and allowed two runs on four hits over eight innings to grab a win at Colorado. The 24-year old has allowed two earned runs or less in six of his last seven starts. Latos struck out 11 and held the Pirates scoreless over six innings to pick up a win on May 6 and has never lost to Pittsburgh, going 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four chances.
1. The Pirates have taken five of nine from the Reds so far in 2012, including two of three in Cincinnati from June 5-7.
2. Pittsburgh OF Andrew McCutchen, who leads the majors with a .373 batting average, is hitting just .231 against the Reds this season.
3. Votto worked out on the field before Thursday’s game but still has no set timetable for his return.