Cleveland (35-43) at Cincinnati (44-36)

Fair Currently: Cincinnati, OH
Temp: 73° F
  • Game info: 6:10 pm EDT Sat Jul 1, 2006
  • TV: STO, FSOH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Cincinnati Reds have used the longball to move back in contention in the NL Central.

Coming off a club-record for home runs in June, the Reds will try to keep their power surge going when they continue a three-game weekend series with the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.

Cincinnati (44-36) trailed 7-0 heading into the eighth inning of the series opener on Friday before Austin Kearns’ solo homer and Juan Castro’s three-run shot made it 7-4.

Cleveland (35-43) increased its lead to 8-4 on Ronnie Belliard’s RBI single in the ninth.

The Reds drew within 8-5 on Javier Valentin’s RBI groundout before Adam Dunn’s walk-off grand slam with two out off closer Bob Wickman lifted the Reds to a 9-8 win.

“That was a game we probably shouldn’t have won,” Dunn acknowledged. “We had no business winning that game, but everybody just kept grinding and grinding.”

The Reds hit 12 homers over the final four games of the month to finish June with a club record 47 in which they went 15-12. That surge—combined with St. Louis losing nine of its last 10—has left Cincinnati one percentage point behind the first-place Cardinals.

“Hopefully, the momentum will carry over,” Dunn said, whose team improved to 3-1 this season against their cross-state rivals.

To try and keep the momentum going, Joe Mays (0-4, 7.36 ERA) will have to earn his first career win over Cleveland. The right-hander is 0-7 with a 5.95 ERA in 22 games, including 15 starts, against the Indians.

After joining the Reds on June, Mays replaced Brandon Claussen in the rotation after three solid relief outings. In Mays’ first start 10 days ago, he allowed two runs and eight hits over six innings of the Reds’ 6-5 win over the New York Mets.

Belliard’s first-inning homer Friday highlighted a five-run first inning for Cleveland, which won only nine of 26 games in June to fall well out of contention in the AL Central.

“I had nothing tonight,” said Wickman, who hadn’t given up a homer this season—or a grand slam in 746 career appearances. “It was ridiculous and embarrassing. I can’t throw a strike.”

Cleveland will send its ace to the mound when Cliff Lee (7-5, 4.61) gets the start. The left-hander is 3-0 with 2.66 ERA in his last three starts.

Against St. Louis on Wednesday, Lee lasted six innings and allowed two runs and eight hits in the Indians’ 10-3 rout. Lee is 6-0 with a 3.27 ERA in his career against NL clubs.

“About the last month or so he’s been the Cliff we expect to see out there,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said of Lee, an 18-game winner last year. “That’s what we want to keep seeing.”

He has allowed a team-high 15 homers in 97 2-3 innings.

Center fielder Grady Sizemore will try to extend his hitting streak for the Indians. He’s hitting .413 (19-for-41) with five doubles and three homers during an 11-game run.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Lee Phi vs. J. Mays LAD
14-11 Record 0-5
4.40 ERA 8.70
129 K 25
58 BB 26
1.41 WHIP 2.05