The Cincinnati Reds haven’t had much go right in June, but they can close it the way they started it - with a third straight win.
Cincinnati will look to win three in a row for the first time in a month on Monday night, when it opens a three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates in a matchup of the NL Central’s two worst teams.
The Reds (38-45) entered their weekend interleague set at Cleveland just 9-15 in June, and were then shut out 6-0 on Friday.
But Cincinnati won 5-0 the next day and followed with a 9-5 victory on Sunday, pushing its record to 5-1 against its intrastate rival this season. The Reds had dropped 20 of their last 21 road swings dating to 2006, but closed this trip with a 5-4 mark.
“It’s been tough,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Getting beat on the road doesn’t leave a very good taste in your mouth.”
A win over the Pirates (38-43) in the series opener would give the Reds three straight victories for the first time since May 30-June 1.
Aaron Harang (3-10, 4.51 ERA) will be on the mound for Cincinnati, but the team’s presumed ace—a 16-game winner each of the last two seasons—has looked nothing like a frontline starter lately. Harang has gone 1-4 with a 7.36 ERA in his last six starts.
That stretch began with a 7-2 home loss to Pittsburgh on May 29, when Harang lasted four innings while giving up six runs and 10 hits.
“I felt like I didn’t have it from the get-go,” said Harang, who had been 5-0 with a 3.19 ERA in his previous seven starts versus Pittsburgh. “I knew it was going to be a long day.”
The Reds also need to get more production from their offense. Before Sunday’s win, when they pounded out 14 hits against the Indians, Baker’s team had been hitting just .202 since June 10.
Brandon Phillips, who went 3-for-5 on Sunday, has been one of the only players consistently coming through for Cincinnati. He’s hitting .364 (16-for-44) with eight RBIs in his last 11 games.
Phillips has also had plenty of success against Pirates starter Paul Maholm. The Reds second baseman is 9-for-23 with three homers and seven RBIs lifetime against Maholm (5-5, 4.41).
The left-hander is 3-0 with a 3.15 ERA over his last five starts, though it looked like he would get the loss on Thursday against the New York Yankees. Maholm allowed three runs in 2 2-3 innings before the game was postponed due to rain.
Maholm’s last official outing was a 6-3 win over Toronto on June 21, when he allowed three runs over seven innings.
“He’s avoiding that big inning,” manager John Russell told the Pirates’ official Web site. “He’s really attacking the zone down.”
Pittsburgh appeared to be in position to take two of three from Tampa Bay over the weekend, but reliever Tyler Yates gave up two runs in the eighth inning in a 4-3 loss on Sunday.
The Pirates finished 5-9 against the AL and dropped to a major league-worst 62-103 since interleague play began.
“Interleague was a challenge, and it will be good to get back into the division,” shortstop Jack Wilson said. “But we still have the feeling we can roll off five, six, seven (victories) in a row … maybe we haven’t had that feeling the last few years.”