Washington (12-21) at Cincinnati (21-12)

Cloudy Currently: Cincinnati, OH
Temp: 56° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Wed May 10, 2006
  • TV: MASN, FSOH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Aaron Harang has been one of the main reasons for the Cincinnati Reds’ strong start.

Harang looks for his sixth straight win and tries to help the Reds (21-12) rebound from a poor performance when he faces the Washington Nationals (12-21) on Wednesday night at Great American Ballpark.

Cincinnati gave up five home runs to the Nationals in a 7-1 loss in the series opener Tuesday night. Jose Guillen hit two for Washington, while Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Zimmerman and Matthew LeCroy also hit homers.

Since giving up nine runs—six earned—and nine hits in five innings in a season-opening loss to the Chicago Cubs, Harang (5-1, 3.78 ERA) has had the best stretch of his career, winning his last five decisions.

The Reds have won the last six games he has started.

“We were really pleased with the way Harang threw last year and knew if he could make any improvement at all this year we’d have one of the better pitchers in baseball, and right now he is,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said.

Harang threw a shutout at Milwaukee on April 23 and has pitched at least six innings in five of his last six starts. He struck out a career-high 12 in Colorado last Thursday.

“That’s a shocker to me,” Harang said of his performance against the Rockies. “I’ve never really considered myself to be a guy who overpowers you. I have to throw my pitches to spots. Everything was working. I was throwing strikes and getting ahead of hitters early.”

The 6-foot-7, 270-pound right-hander is 0-1 with a 7.27 ERA in two starts against the Nationals, but hasn’t faced them since 2003.

The Reds could have center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. back in the lineup for the first time since April 12 Wednesday. Griffey was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained tendon in his right knee, but tested the injury on Tuesday and appears ready to return.

“I feel like I’m turning the corner,” he said. “I just need to feel comfortable going out there day-in and day-out.”

Cincinnati has gone 16-9 since Griffey was injured.

The Nationals have had a poor start to the season and haven’t gotten the performance they expected out of their ace.

Livan Hernandez (1-4, 6.29) has allowed at least four runs in five of his seven starts, and given up seven earned runs twice this season, including his last start.

Hernandez, who was 15-10 with a 3.98 ERA last season and threw a major league-leading 246 1-3 innings, is on pace to have the worst season of his career.

The right-hander is 2-6 with a 4.98 ERA in 11 starts against the Reds, and the Nationals have lost his last five starts against Cincinnati, including a 4-2 defeat on April 24 in which he gave up all four runs and eight hits in seven innings.

The Nationals will be looking to win three straight for only the second time this season. The homer barrage on Tuesday—which included Soriano’s 492-foot shot in the ninth inning—helped Washington win for the third time in four games.

“Any time you hit the ball out, it’s a good swing, but some are better than others,” Washington manager Frank Robinson said. “Soriano’s would have been out of the Grand Canyon.”

The homer was the fourth-longest in the history of Great American Ballpark.

The series concludes Thursday with Zach Day (2-3, 7.11) facing Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo (5-1, 2.36).

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Starting Pitchers

L. Hernandez Mil vs. A. Harang Phi
13-13 Record 16-11
4.83 ERA 3.76
128 K 216
78 BB 56
1.50 WHIP 1.27