Struggling with the worst record in the National League and beginning a tough nine-game interleague stretch, the Cincinnati Reds will turn to rookie Homer Bailey on Friday to open a three-game home series against the Cleveland Indians.
Bailey, widely considered the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, went 6-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 10 starts this season for Triple-A Louisville. The seventh overall pick from the 2004 draft will be expected to bolster a Cincinnati (23-38) staff that has an NL-worst 4.70 ERA.
“At first, you’re kind of nervous and things,” Bailey told the Reds’ official Web site. “But after a while, you feel, ‘This is where I want to be.’ This is what I’ve been working for and this is what I’ve been looking forward to. Now this is the time.”
However, the 21-year-old right-hander also doesn’t expect to singlehandedly reverse the fortunes of the team with the league’s worst record.
“The Reds themselves don’t look for me to be a big season changer,” Bailey said. “In their minds, it’s ‘Let’s get him up here just in case.’”
Cincinnati snapped its four-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday. Ken Griffey Jr., Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Dunn all homered, with Encarnacion - who is 16-for-27 over his last seven games - driving in three runs.
The Angels lead the AL West, while Cleveland (36-22) owns a 2 1/2-game lead over the Detroit Tigers atop the AL Central.
The Indians have won just five of their last 10 games, but enter this series after taking two of three at home from Kansas City Royals, including an 8-3 victory Thursday. Fausto Carmona won his seventh consecutive decision, while Casey Blake’s two-run homer in the eighth inning extended his hitting streak to a career-best 16 games.
“It’s nice to be on a streak, but I don’t care about that,” said Blake, who is batting .339 (21-for-62) during his run. “I just want to help us win. “
The Indians will hand the ball to Cliff Lee (2-3, 6.35), who has dropped his last three starts while posting a 10.54 ERA. The left-hander gave up five runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 9-5 loss to the Tigers.
Lee is 3-0 with a 5.91 ERA in four starts against the Reds. The left-hander’s last win came against Cincinnati on May 18, when he allowed four runs - two earned - and six hits in a 9-4 victory.
Cleveland won two of three games in that series at Jacobs Field, and also is 13-8 at Cincinnati since the 1997 advent of interleague play.
Griffey’s home run Thursday was the 576th of his career, moving him seven behind Mark McGwire for seventh all-time. He has 35 career home runs versus the Indians - his second-most against any opponent - including two in eight at-bats against Lee.