The Reds try to sweep the Pirates at home for the first time in more than eight years when they meet at Great American Ball Park on Sunday.
Cincinnati (4-1) defeated Pittsburgh 7-5 on Saturday for its third straight victory. The Reds have opened the season by winning four of five games for the second straight year, and they haven’t started with a better record since the strike-shortened 1994 season. Cincinnati didn’t suffer its second loss until its ninth game that season.
Adam Dunn hit a two-run shot for his third home run of the season Saturday, although the ball never should have made it out of the park.
Dunn’s high fly ball to Xavier Nady in right field bounced out of Nady’s glove a foot in front of the wall, and cleared the fence.
“The wind took it a lot farther than I thought it would,” said Dunn, the only Cincinnati player to hit safely in all five games. “I owe him some beers. It doesn’t happen every day.”
The temperature was 30 degrees at first pitch Saturday, and is expected to be around 40 for the start of Sunday’s contest.
The Reds haven’t swept the Pirates (3-2) in a home series since Sept. 25-27, 1998, when they played at Riverfront Stadium, but should have a good chance of accomplishing it against Saturday’s starter Zach Duke (0-0, 2.57 ERA).
Duke went 1-11 with a 4.77 ERA in 17 road starts last season, with Pittsburgh losing 16 of those contests.
The left-hander has never pitched at Great American Ball Park, and in his only start against Cincinnati last season allowed four runs and 12 hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-2 loss Sept. 29.
Duke was originally scheduled to start Saturday, but a cracked fingernail on his pitching hand forced him to be pushed back a day.
He is coming off an encouraging start in the Pirates’ season opener, though, as he tries to put a disappointing 2006 behind him. Duke allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings of Pittsburgh’s 4-2, 10-inning win over Houston on Monday.
The Pirates, who haven’t finished with a winning record since 1992, may have NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez back in the lineup Sunday, as he was activated from the 15-day disabled list Saturday.
Sanchez, who hit .344 last season, sprained his right knee while turning a double play March 6. He wanted to play a few times in the minors to refine his swing, but cold weather wiped out games for Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday and Saturday.
“He’s probably got a better chance to play here,” general manager Dave Littlefield said. “Eventually you’ve just got to make a call.”
Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy was noncommittal about whether Sanchez would start Sunday against Eric Milton, who is also coming off the DL after a bout with back spasms.
Milton went 8-8 with a 5.19 ERA in 26 starts last season, and gave up 12 runs in 13 2-3 innings over four starts in spring training.
The left-hander struggled at home last year, going 3-6 with a 5.38 ERA in 14 starts. He’s 1-2 with an 8.53 ERA in four home starts against the Pirates as a member of the Reds.