Even after a horrible start to the season, the surging Cincinnati Reds are hardly out of what has been a bizarre NL Central race.
The Reds look to continue their offensive outburst and win their seventh straight game when they play a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.
With the Central leaders stumbling along, Cincinnati (60-70) has moved within 6 1/2 games of the first-place Chicago Cubs despite its poor record. The Reds beat Florida 9-3 on Sunday, and are averaging 7.7 runs and batting .311 with 13 home runs during their season-high six-game winning streak.
Cincinnati had the worst record in the majors and was 17 games out of first July 2, but since interim manager Pete Mackanin replaced the fired Jerry Narron the next day, the Reds have gone an NL-best 29-19.
“The Little Red Wagon is doing all right,” Ken Griffey Jr. said, playing off the Big Red Machine teams of the ’70s that his father played for.
Reds slugger Adam Dunn is batting .359 (14-for-39) with six homers and 14 RBIs in his last 11 games, and .310 (13-for-42) with seven home runs and 14 RBIs in 12 games against Pittsburgh this year.
The Reds have won three straight games over the Pirates (57-72) and are 7-5 against them this season. Cincinnati has taken four consecutive games at Pittsburgh, where it hasn’t won five straight in a season since going 6-0 at Three Rivers Stadium in 1986.
Elizardo Ramirez (0-1, 6.35 ERA) tries to extend the Reds’ run and pick up his first win of the year when he takes the mound in the first game.
After allowing three runs and no walks in five innings of an 8-4 loss to Milwaukee in his first start Aug. 18, Ramirez regressed his last time out. He gave up five runs, five hits and four walks in 4 1-3 innings against Atlanta on Thursday, although the Reds managed to win 9-7 in 12 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander hasn’t won since July 27 of last season.
In his only career start against the Pirates, Ramirez gave up six runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings of an 8-4 loss May 26, 2005.
Pittsburgh will counter Ramirez with Tom Gorzelanny (12-7, 3.40), who’s 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in four starts this month. The left-hander allowed two runs and six hits in six innings of an 11-2 win over Colorado on Wednesday, and has given up just three earned runs in 22 innings in his three wins in August.
In his only career start against the Reds, Gorzelanny yielded five runs and eight hits in six innings of an 8-1 defeat at PNC Park on April 28.
Arroyo is 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA in his last four starts and is 5-4 since the start of July after going 2-9 in the first three months of the season. The right-hander gave up two runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 4-2 victory over the Braves on Wednesday to win his second straight start. He has not won three consecutive starts since a four-game run Sept. 1-15.
In his only start of the season against the Pirates, Arroyo gave up six runs and seven hits in four innings of a 9-5 loss May 26. He’s 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in four career starts against them.
Like Arroyo, Maholm has pitched much better lately, going 5-2 with a 3.66 ERA in his last seven starts. He allowed one run in seven innings of a 5-1 victory over the Rockies on Thursday, giving him a career-best three-start winning streak.
The left-hander has struggled against the Reds this season, though, going 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts. He’s 2-3 with a 5.13 ERA in nine career starts against Cincinnati.
Dunn, who has homered in four of his five games at PNC Park this season, is 2-for-18 (.111) with seven strikeouts in his career against Maholm.
The Pirates lost 5-4 to Houston on Sunday, but have won seven of nine. The defeat was a rough one, though, as they blew a 4-1 lead after five innings.
“This was a tough game to lose,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “I thought we did everything we could possibly do to win the game. They got a couple of big at-bats, and that’s all it takes.”
Jason Bay is batting .340 (16-for-47) with four home runs and 13 RBIs against the Reds this season, and is 5-for-11 (.455) with two doubles in his career against Arroyo.