With the Cincinnati Reds set to honor Dave Concepcion, they’ve also been getting some strong play from their current shortstop recently.
The Reds, who have been benefiting from Jeff Keppinger’s surge at the plate, look to win five straight games for the first time in more than a year when they continue their weekend series with the struggling Florida Marlins on Saturday night.
Cincinnati (58-70) will retire Concepcion’s No. 13 before this game. He was a key member of the “Big Red Machine” pennant- and World Series-winning team during the 1970s, one of the best defensive players of his time and a nine-time All-Star while playing with the Reds from 1970-88.
His number will be the ninth retired by the Reds, including those belonging to teammates Johnny Bench (5), Joe Morgan (8), Tony Perez (24) and manager Sparky Anderson (10).
Keppinger has been unable to find a full-time role in three major league seasons, but has started at shortstop in Cincinnati’s last 12 games and is hitting .404 (12-for-52) with two home runs, a triple, four doubles and seven RBIs during a career-high 13-game hitting streak.
Keppinger hit his fourth homer in the Reds’ 5-3 win over the Marlins (57-72) on Friday, giving Cincinnati four straight wins for the fourth time this season. A victory Saturday would give the Reds five in a row for the first time since an eight-game run from May 31-June 7, 2006.
“We should’ve been doing this all year,” said the Reds’ Brandon Phillips, who fell a double short of the cycle Friday. “I think we are a winning team, regardless of our record.”
Cincinnati, though, will be giving the ball to Matt Belisle (6-8, 5.40 ERA), who has struggled in his first season as a full-time starter. The right-hander will be recalled from Triple-A Louisville to start for Bobby Livingston, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an injury to his pitching shoulder.
Belisle was optioned to the minors on Aug. 11 after struggling against San Diego the day before, giving up five runs and six hits in five innings of a 12-7 loss.
Belisle is 0-1 with a 4.67 ERA in three starts and three relief appearances against Florida. He faced the Marlins on July 19, yielding five runs - four earned - and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-5 Reds win.
The Marlins will counter with Sergio Mitre (5-6, 4.02 ERA), who is 1-2 with a 7.79 ERA in his last six starts. The right-hander allowed five runs and 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-7 loss to San Francisco on Monday.
Mitre has a 4.50 ERA and has not received a decision in seven career appearances with two starts against the Reds. He faced Cincinnati on July 19, giving up three runs - two earned - in six innings of a 7-5 loss.
Florida, which has dropped nine of 10, could use a strong start from Mitre with its lineup struggling. The Marlins were hitless in eight chances with runners in scoring position Friday, and have scored three runs or less in four of their last eight games.
“It’s tough,” said Dontrelle Willis, who took the loss Friday. “We’re competitive until the end.”