Climbing all the way to first place in the NL Central may be a bit of a long shot for the Cincinnati Reds, but they are playing some of the best baseball in the majors right now.
The Reds look to win five straight games for the first time in more than a year when they continue their four-game series with the Florida Marlins on Friday.
Cincinnati (41-55) compiled the majors’ worst record through July 4 at 32-52, but has the second-best record in baseball since then, winning nine of 12.
“What do we need to go to first?” interim manager Pete Mackanin asked after his team rallied to win 7-5 in Thursday’s series opener. “We need to keep winning.”
The Reds are 13 1/2 games behind division leader Milwaukee, but are 10-4 since Mackanin replaced Jerry Narron. They jumped ahead of Pittsburgh and Houston into fourth place in the NL Central with Thursday’s victory.
Cincinnati, which has scored 28 runs during its winning streak, has not won five straight games since reeling off eight in a row from May 31-June 8 of last season.
Ryan Freel hit a three-run homer Thursday, part of the Reds’ four-run eighth inning that completed the comeback.
“We’ve been playing some really good ball,” Freel said. “Shaking up things with Pete coming in here, it looks like it has made a difference.”
Cincinnati is 5-3 on its season-high 11-game road trip, and has won 20 of 28 games at Dolphin Stadium since the start of the 1998 season.
Kyle Lohse (5-11, 4.68 ERA) looks to put an end to his road woes when he takes the hill Friday. Lohse has been awful on the road this season, going 2-8 with a 6.53 ERA in 11 starts, and he’s allowed 19 runs in 15 1-3 innings in losing his last three such outings.
Lohse gave up five runs and six hits in just 4 2-3 innings of a 5-2 road defeat to the New York Mets on Sunday. He was coming off a four-hitter of Arizona in an 8-1 home victory July 6.
Lohse pitched well in his only career start against the Marlins, allowing one run and three hits in six innings for a 5-1 win at Dolphin Stadium on Sept. 28.
Florida (45-51) has lost two straight and five of eight.
Left fielder Josh Willingham hit his 15th homer of the season Thursday, giving him five in his last nine games.
Scott Olsen (7-7, 5.15) makes his first start since being reprimanded by the Marlins when he takes the ball Friday.
The 23-year-old Olsen was suspended for two games and fined for insubordination and conduct detrimental to the team on Monday. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the penalty stemmed from an incident Sunday after Olsen was lifted from a game against Washington, but would not elaborate.
“We’re looking to put it behind us,” Gonzalez told the team’s official Web site.
Olsen allowed two runs and six hits in five innings of a 5-3 win Sunday. The left-hander has been at his best at Dolphin Stadium, going 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his last four starts there. He’s 5-2 with a 4.37 ERA in 10 home starts this season.
Olsen will be making his first career start against the Reds.