It’s been a long time since the Cincinnati Reds were involved in a division race this late in a season.
After moving into a virtual tie for first place in the NL Central, the Reds continue their four-game series with the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on Friday.
Cincinnati beat San Francisco 6-3 in Thursday’s series opener, bringing the Reds (67-61) into a tie with St. Louis atop the division, although the Cardinals are ahead on percentage points (.5238 to .5234).
The Cardinals were swept by the Mets, allowing the Reds to gain ground. Because they are mere percentage points behind, Cincinnati remains on top of the wild-card standings, 1 1/2 games ahead of San Diego.
“The big thing for us is every game is huge from here on out,” pitcher Dave Weathers said. “Every time we have a chance to get a win, we have to jump on it.”
The last time the Reds had a share of first place in the division this late in the season was Oct. 1, 1999, when they were tied with Houston with four games left in the year.
David Ross hit a solo homer in the eighth Thursday to snap a 3-all tie as Cincinnati rallied from a 3-0 deficit.
“A big win,” Ross said. “When there are so many teams in it, it’s nice to gain ground on anybody. What everybody’s worrying about in here is taking care of ourselves at this point.”
San Francisco (62-66) had its three-game winning streak snapped and fell 4 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and five games behind the Reds in the wild-card standings.
“I’m looking at the division, the wild card is too crowded,” Giants manager Felipe Alou said. “There’s too many other teams there, and there are teams in different time zones that we won’t see anymore. There’s only four other teams in the division.”
Aaron Harang (13-8, 3.72 ERA) looks to win consecutive starts for the first time since late June when he takes the mound for Cincinnati on Friday. Harang beat Pittsburgh 5-1 on Sunday, allowing five hits and one run in seven innings to win for the first time in four outings.
“I did some work this week on my mechanics,” he said. “I was getting out early, and my front side was flying open, and my arm was having a tough time catching up. I was dropping my elbow, so we did some tinkering.”
The right-hander is 2-3 with a 3.90 ERA in five career starts against the Giants.
Matt Morris (8-11, 4.67) looks to snap a four-game losing streak when he starts for San Francisco. The right-hander won five straight decisions from June 15-July 14, but has since posted a 5.98 ERA in seven outings.
Morris gave up eight hits and five runs in eight innings of a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday.
He is 7-4 with a 4.08 ERA in 19 career games against Cincinnati.