After a rough stretch, the Cincinnati Reds are once again closing in on first place in the National League Central.
The Reds try for their season-best seventh straight win as they wrap up a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.
Cincinnati (34-24) beat St. Louis 7-0 on Tuesday for their second six-game winning streak of the season. The Reds, who moved a game behind the first-place Cardinals, have not won seven in a row since May 19-25, 2004.
Cincinnati has not been in first place since May 12, when it was tied with St. Louis atop the division. The Reds went 5-11 from May 13-30, falling as far back as five games, before their current winning streak.
Felipe Lopez and Adam Dunn homered Tuesday for the Reds, who are 5-2 against the Cardinals this season. Ken Griffey Jr. had two singles and walked three times one night after hitting a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth off Jason Isringhausen.
Griffey is 16-for-34 with four homers and eight RBIs on the first eight games of the Reds’ nine-game trip.
“I think a lot of people were expecting us probably to get buried on this road trip,” said manager Jerry Narron, whose team swept a three-game series against NL Central rival Houston before this set. “I think we’re going to show people we’re not going to go away easy.”
Aaron Harang (6-4, 3.65 ERA) will look to help Cincinnati finish off the series sweep. He allowed two runs and five hits in six innings of Friday’s 14-2 win over the Astros, ending a personal three-game losing streak.
The Reds had been shut out in his previous two outings.
“We were able to get on their starter early,” Harang said. “That’s nice, because that meant I could settle down and throw my game. And even if I make a mistake, I know it’s not going to hurt me.”
Harang is 1-3 with a 3.45 ERA in his last five starts after going 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA in his previous six. He is 2-5 with a 3.99 ERA in eight career starts against the Cardinals.
Reds third baseman Edwin Encarnacion left the game in the fifth inning after spraining his left ankle, but X-rays were negative. Narron said he is day-to-day.
Scott Rolen had two hits for the Cardinals, who fell to 1-2 since Albert Pujols went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle on his right side. Rolen is hitting .409 (18-for-44) with two homers during an 11-game hitting streak.
St. Louis is 14-16 against the NL Central after going 51-29 against the division last season. The shutout was the second of the season for the Cardinals, who have lost two straight home series after starting 9-0 at new Busch Stadium.
St. Louis will counter with Sidney Ponson (4-0, 2.93), who is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two starts since a stint on the disabled list with a strained right elbow. He allowed two runs and a season-high nine hits in six innings of the Cardinals’ 5-4 loss in 14 innings to the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
Ponson is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three career starts against the Reds, including 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against them this season.