The Reds look for their eighth win in a row against Pittsburgh on Thursday at PNC Park, where the floundering Pirates have lost eight of nine as they move closer to a 100-loss season.
Pittsburgh (56-94) had won five consecutive games after beating Cincinnati 12-2 at home on Aug. 22 to move past the Reds into fifth place in the NL Central.
Little has gone wrong for Cincinnati (71-81) since, and almost nothing has gone right for the Pirates. Pittsburgh has lost 24 of its last 29 games to fall 14 games behind the Reds, while Cincinnati has gone 20-10 to pull into a tie with Houston for fourth.
Seven of the Pirates’ losses have come to the Reds, including Wednesday’s 12-2 rout that dropped them to 3-22 since Aug. 28.
“This has been difficult for everybody,” said rookie center fielder Andrew McCutchen(notes), who had his fifth multihit game in his last seven and extended his hitting streak to 10. “It’s kind of hard to keep a smile on your face when things like this happen.
“But the only thing you can do is just go out there and just shake it off and just get prepared for the next day. … There’s no point in moping; you’ve got to be here so you might as well do something to change it.”
“It’s great to see what type of player he is becoming and that he can be,” said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips(notes), who left Wednesday after being hit in the left hand by a pitch in the ninth inning but afterward said he was OK.
Votto is hitting .500 with six RBIs in eight games at PNC Park this season, but he’s hitless in three at-bats against Charlie Morton(notes) (4-8, 5.00 ERA), who gets the ball in the finale for Pittsburgh.
Morton has been up and down since being acquired him from Atlanta in early June, but his latest start certainly qualifies as one of his high points. Morton gave up a run and six hits over seven innings Friday in a 5-1 win over San Diego.
“He has made very good strides,” manager John Russell told the Pirates’ official Web site. “If we can get him a little more consistent game in and game out and maintain that, he’s going to be good.”
Morton, who’s 3-3 with a 2.76 ERA at home, is 1-1 with a 6.35 ERA in two starts against the Reds this season.
The Reds will go with Bronson Arroyo(notes) (13-13, 4.04), who began his career with the Pirates and gets another crack at his former team after shutting them down on four hits over eight innings in a 4-0 road win on May 1.
Lengthy starts have been nothing unusual for Arroyo recently. He’s lasted at least seven innings in all 10 starts since Aug. 1, going 3-3 with a 2.06 ERA. The right-hander gave up three runs over eight innings Saturday against Florida, but lost 3-2.
Arroyo is 1-4 with a 5.37 ERA in eight afternoon starts.