Entering a series against the NL’s worst team, the Cincinnati Reds look to hold on to their lead in the wild card race while trying to close on first place in their own division.
The Reds start a six-game homestand against divisional opponents when they meet the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday in the opener of a weekend series.
Cincinnati (62-59) has a one-game lead over Arizona for the wild card, but trails St. Louis by 2 1/2 games for the NL Central lead after dropping a 2-1 decision to the Cardinals on Thursday.
Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 561st career homer for the Reds, leaving him two shy of tying Reggie Jackson for 10th on the all-time list.
The Pittsburgh-area native is hitting .438 (7-for-16) in his last four games, but his struggled against the Pirates in his career at Great American Ball Park. In 18 games, Griffey is hitting only .222 (14-for-63) with three homers, 13 RBIs and 13 strikeouts.
Chris Michalak (1-0, 6.75 ERA)—who won for the first time in nearly five years his last time out—gets the start for Cincinnati. The left-hander gave up a run and three hits over 6 2-3 innings Saturday in a 9-7 win over Philadelphia.
It was the Michalak’s first appearance since May 2002 and first victory since September 2001, both while with Texas.
“It was awesome to be in a playoff atmosphere,” said the 35-year-old Michalak, who broke in with Arizona in 1998 and also played with Toronto in 2001. “It makes all the years in the minors and all the hard work worthwhile.”
While with the Diamondbacks, he gave up two runs and three hits in two-thirds of an inning of relief in his only career appearance versus the Pirates.
After sweeping St. Louis to start a six-game homestand, Pittsburgh (46-75) dropped two of three to Milwaukee inclduing a 5-2 loss in 13 innings on Wednesday. Reliever Damaso Marte walked four and allowed three runs in the 13th to fall to 0-7.
“The walk is going to get you there,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “That deep into the bullpen, that deep into the game, you’ve got to get us into the dugout with an opportunity to win the game.”
Despite the loss, Tracy said Pittsburgh needs to build off what was a successful homestand.
“The important thing for us is to get out on the road and do some good things out there,” he said. “I think that’s our next step—to follow up a 4-2 homestand with a good road trip. I’m very hopeful of seeing some of that take place between now and the end of the season.”
Ace Ian Snell (10-8, 4.67) looks to continue pitching well on the road for the Pirates when he starts the opener. The right-hander, who also leads the Pirates with 122 strikeouts, is 5-2 with a 3.66 ERA in 11 road starts this year,
Snell limited the Cardinals to two runs and five hits through seven innings of a 3-2 win on Saturday.
“I think I’ve proved myself enough, and I’m trying to show my team—and myself—I’m reliable and that I can do this the rest of the year,” Snell said.
Snell made his only career start against the Reds on April 6, and didn’t record a decision. He gave up four runs and 10 hits over five innings of the Pirates’ 6-5 loss.