Los Angeles (68-62), looking for its third win in a row, has a two-game lead over defending NL West champion San Diego. Cincinnati (67-64), meanwhile, has been outscored 16-3 during a three-game losing streak.
Despite the slide, the Reds still have a one-half game lead over the Padres for the NL wild card but trail NL Central Division-leading St. Louis by three games.
Los Angeles plays its next six games at home, where it has won 11 of its last 13 contests.
“It will be nice to get home,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “I just wish it would be longer. It’s just six games before we go back out for 10 more games on the road.”
Brad Penny (13-7, 3.95 ERA) will try to end his recent struggles and match career high for wins when he starts for Los Angeles. The right-hander has lost his last two starts, recording a 10.80 ERA in losses at San Francisco and San Diego.
Penny lasted just four innings in Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to the Padres before being ejected after an argument with plate umpire Rick Reed. Reed determined Little had made two trips to the mound during the fifth inning and Penny would have to leave the game after pitching to the next batter.
Penny began yelling at Reed and was immediately ejected.
“To give up six runs makes me sick more than anything,” said Penny, who disagreed with many of Reed’s calls. “Six runs scored and every one of them was controversial.”
Penny is 4-2 with a 3.48 ERA in eight career starts versus the Reds, holding them to a .191 batting average. He also limited them to two runs, three hits and two walks while striking out six over six innings in a 5-3 victory on Aug. 2.
Penny had 14 wins with Florida in 2003.
Chris Michalak (1-1, 4.76) will make his first career start against the Dodgers and third for the Reds since being recalled from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 12. He didn’t receive a decision in a 7-3 loss to Houston on Wednesday in which he gave up two runs and five hits with four walks over 6 1-3 innings.
“He moved the ball in and out,” said catcher David Ross. “He used his sinker really well and got a lot of ground balls. He pitched really well.”
The Reds head to Southern California after losing to San Francisco 8-0 on Sunday. Cincinnati was 0-for-6 in the game with runners in scoring position, and 0-for-19 during its slide.
“We stink right now,” left fielder Adam Dunn said. “It would be nice to turn it around and put the pressure on other people instead of the pressure being on us.
Ken Griffey Jr. is batting .400 (18-for-45) during a 12-game hitting streak. He is 8-for-22 with three homers, a triple and a double during his career against Penny.
Griffey still needs one homer to tie Hall of Famer Reggie Jackon for 10th place on the all-time list with 563.