After a winless road trip, the woeful Padres will try to avoid a seventh straight defeat Friday night as they open a three-game set against Cincinnati, which will have Aaron Harang(notes) on the hill as it looks to start its NL West trip 4-0.
With six wins in their last seven games, the Reds (20-14) have surged into contention in the NL Central. Their three-game sweep at Arizona this week gave them the best road record in the majors at 13-5.
Cincinnati’s emerging starting pitching has keyed a staff with an ERA that has dipped under 4.00, and the club’s young lineup has broken out to average 7.6 runs in its last seven games.
“Our guys are starting to hit and hitting’s contagious,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Guys are rooting for each other. When a guy’s at the plate, guys are like ‘Hey man, get you some.’ That’s what I like.”
Wednesday’s 10-3 win over the Diamondbacks came without Joey Votto(notes) in the lineup. Votto leads the team in batting average (.374) and RBIs (26, tied with Brandon Phillips(notes)), but has been experiencing dizziness after battling the flu and is uncertain for Friday.
Phillips doubled twice and drove in four Wednesday, giving him eight RBIs for the series. He’s batting .483 (14 for 29) with three homers and 15 RBIs in his last seven games despite missing time with a similar illness to Votto over that span.
“We’re a team that’s very hungry, very young,” Phillips said. “We’re going out there and just playing Reds baseball the best way we know how.”
It has helped having a resurgent Harang (3-3, 2.93 ERA) at the top of the rotation. The big right-hander lost 17 games in 2008 but has turned in four quality starts in his last six outings.
Harang beat St. Louis 8-3 on Saturday, allowing three runs - two earned - in seven innings. He has enjoyed pitching at Petco Park, going 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA in six appearances.
He made a rare relief appearance in the Reds’ last game in San Diego, pitching four shutout innings and striking out nine May 25. He was pressed into service in an 18-inning, 12-9 Padres victory.
Harang may be excited to face San Diego’s anemic lineup, which has averaged barely three runs during a month-long slump. The Padres are 4-19 over that span.
“Anytime you’re mired in a funk like this, there’s a lot of emotion that goes on. Frustration is one of them,” manager Bud Black said.
The Padres (13-22) are hoping a return home may help. They were swept in three games at both Houston and Chicago in the last week, with an 11-3 loss to the Cubs on Thursday going down as their 11th straight road defeat.
The team managed four hits Thursday as its average fell to .238, which ranks 29th in the majors. San Diego’s 131 runs are also second-worst, and Adrian Gonzalez(notes), who has homered in four straight games, often seems like its only source of offense.
Correia (0-2, 5.34) is coming off perhaps his best outing, as he held the Astros to two runs and four hits in six innings of Saturday’s 5-4 loss.