Cincinnati (5-5) at Pittsburgh (4-5)

Thunder in the Vicinity Currently: Pittsburgh, PA
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Fri Apr 16, 2010
  • TV: FSOH, FSPI
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Joey Votto(notes) is off to a bit of a slow start, but that could easily change with a series in Pittsburgh and Zach Duke(notes) on the mound in the opener.

The slumping Votto looks to continue to feast on the pitching of Duke and the Pirates as the Reds open a three-game series at PNC Park on Friday night.

After batting .322 with 25 home runs and 84 RBIs in 131 games last season, Votto is hitting .263 with a homer and two RBIs through the first 10 games of 2010. He averaged a strikeout every 4.4 at-bats in 2009, but is averaging one every 2.9 at-bats this year.

Although it’s been a struggle early for Votto, he has had no such trouble in Pittsburgh.

The Reds first baseman hit .472 (17 for 36) with seven doubles, eight RBIs and had a .548 on-base percentage in nine games at PNC Park in 2009. Cincinnati (5-5) won six of those games and went 13-5 against Pittsburgh last season.

While Votto has battered most Pirates pitchers, he’s had his most success against Duke, going 10 for 16 with five doubles lifetime. Consequently, Duke went 1-4 with a 4.65 ERA in five starts against the Reds in 2009.

Duke (2-0, 3.00 ERA) has gotten off to an encouraging start to this season, though, winning his first two outings. Pittsburgh (4-5), which lost to San Francisco 6-0 on Wednesday, is 2-5 when Duke isn’t on the mound.

The left-hander was moved up a day in the rotation for his last start so he could oppose Arizona staff ace Dan Haren(notes). The move worked, as Duke allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings of Saturday’s 6-3 win.

“He got balls on the ground, was consistent, changed speed,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “That’s what Zach’s capable of doing.”

Duke also won his first two starts last season, and was 6-4 with a 2.62 ERA through the first two months of 2009, but things quickly turned and he went just 5-12 with a 4.90 ERA the rest of the way.

Cincinnati counters with rookie Mike Leake(notes) (0-0, 1.35), who is coming off an up-and-down highly publicized major league debut.

Becoming the 21st player since the draft began in 1965 to play in the majors without appearing in a minor league game, Leake allowed one run, four hits and seven walks over 6 2-3 innings in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Chicago, but didn’t receive a decision.

“I didn’t have any jitters,” said the right-hander, who gave up a hit and issued two walks before recording an out. “I was just trying to do too much and I was pulling the ball. Seven walks is a little much.”

The Reds are hoping Leake can have a more efficient outing after their bullpen has logged a lot of innings since the 22-year-old made his debut.

Staff ace Aaron Harang(notes) was tagged for eight runs and 10 hits in four innings in Thursday’s 10-2 loss in Florida, and Reds relievers have thrown 16 2-3 innings over the last four games.

“We need some innings out of young Leake, and a victory,” manager Dusty Baker told the Reds’ official Web site. “We’ll put this one behind us and go to the next series.”

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Starting Pitchers

M. Leake SF vs. Z. Duke CWS
8-4 Record 8-15
4.23 ERA 5.72
91 K 96
49 BB 51
1.50 WHIP 1.65

Scoreboard

Friday, Apr 16