With their playoff hopes plunging, the Diamondbacks get one last chance to try to take advantage of Reds pitching when the teams play finish their series on Sunday.
Arizona (72-75) lost 3-2 in 10 innings to Cincinnati on Saturday, dropping 4 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.
With the Dodgers having won 12 of their last 13, the Diamondbacks will have a tough time catching them, especially considering how poorly they’ve fared at the plate.
Arizona has lost 14 of its last 18, batting .217 while averaging 3.1 runs during that span. In this series, the Diamondbacks are batting .200 and averaging 2.5 runs, even with Saturday’s game going into extra innings.
Arizona has not been able to solve a Cincinnati pitching staff that has been terrible this season, posting a 4.54 ERA and surrendering a major league-high 185 home runs. But in five games against Arizona this season, Cincinnati has posted a 2.40 ERA and a .172 opponent batting average while striking out 49 in 45 innings.
Now, the Diamondbacks will face Reds rookie Johnny Cueto (8-13, 4.77 ERA), who faced Arizona in his first career start and was outstanding. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed one run and one hit while striking out 10 in seven innings to earn the win as Cincinnati beat Arizona 3-2 on April 3.
But Cueto labored through 5 1-3 innings in his last outing, allowing five runs and eight hits as Cincinnati lost 14-9 to the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 6.
Francisco Cordero was perfect in the 10th Saturday for his 30th save in 36 opportunities. The right-hander has not allowed a run in his last 10 appearances, spanning 10 innings, going 1-0 while converting all seven of his save chances during that stretch.
Arizona will hand the ball to Max Scherzer (0-2, 3.00 ERA), who is making his second straight start since being called up from Triple-A Tucson for the stretch run. The rookie right-hander struck out a career-high 11 against the Dodgers on Sunday night, giving up three runs and five hits in five innings in a 5-3 loss.
This will be Scherzer’s first appearance against Cincinnati.
If Scherzer can pitch deep into the game with an Arizona lead, Chad Qualls will likely get the ball in the ninth inning.
Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin has made Qualls the closer after former stopper Brandon Lyon struggled in recent weeks. Lyon has posted an 11.57 ERA in 17 appearances since the All-Star break.
“He’s a leader down there,” Melvin said of Lyon. “He’s about as accountable of a guy as I’ve ever had in the bullpen. He totally understood. I talked to him and all he wants to do is help this team win. In that respect, he took it like a pro.”