The Cincinnati Reds look to keep in close playoff contention and defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates for the fourth straight time when the NL Central rivals continue a three-game series on Saturday at Great American Ball Park.
Including a 9-1 victory win on Friday, Cincinnati (70-71) has outscored Pittsburgh 28-9 over the last three meetings between the clubs. The Reds still have a chance to play in the postseason despite being a game below the .500 mark.
Cincinnati closed to 3 1/2 games behind wild card leader San Diego after the Padres’ 4-0 loss to San Francisco on Friday. The Reds also are 5 1/2 games behind division-leading St. Louis after the Cardinals lost 13-1 to Arizona.
“I went a couple of weeks between starts, but it’s been that way all year,” said Valentin, stuck in a three-man catching rotation with Dan Ross and Jason LaRue. “Tonight was my night.”
Dunn’s homer was his 40th, matching his total from last season and marking the third straight year he’s reached that mark. Ted Kluszewski is the only other player in Reds history to hit 40 in three consecutive seasons, doing so from 1953-55.
Aaron Harang (13-10, 3.78 ERA) tries for the fourth time to post his team-high 14th win for Cincinnati. The right-hander, who has not won since Aug. 20, is 0-2 with a 4.29 ERA in his last three starts.
Harang has been dominant at home for more than two months, going 4-0 with a 3.35 ERA in seven starts there while limiting opponents to a .227 batting average.
Harang struggled at Great American Ball Park in his last start, but did not get a decision. In eight innings, he allowed four runs and six hits—including Barry Bonds’ 730th homer—in the Reds’ 10-inning, 5-4 loss to the Giants on Monday.
“He plays to hit mistakes,” Harang said of the seven-time NL MVP. “If you don’t make your best pitch and you’re still aggressive, you have a chance.”
Harang is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts this season against the Pirates—both wins coming at home.
Ryan Doumit accounted for Pittsburgh’s only run Friday with his third homer of the season. The Pirates (57-85) have alternated wins and losses in their last four games.
Despite a losing record, Paul Maholm (7-10, 4.91) has emerged as the Pirates’ best pitcher over the last month. Starting with a win over the NL Central-leading Cardinals on Aug. 13, the left-hander is 3-0 with a 5.40 ERA in his last five starts.
He was the winning pitcher in the Pirates’ 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday. Maholm allowed four runs and three hits with three walks over five innings, retiring 10 of the last 11 hitters he faced.
“We want to get out of the cellar,” Maholm said.
Maholm is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA and .173 opponent batting average in two career starts against Cincinnati. He has never faced the Reds on the road.