Kansas City (25-36) at Cincinnati (35-26)

Cloudy Currently: Cincinnati, OH
Temp: 55° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Fri Jun 11, 2010
  • TV: FSKC, FSOH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Swept by the Kansas City Royals last June after coming into the series 1 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds went on to finish below .500 for a ninth straight season.

The Reds don’t expect a similar tumble in 2010.

A momentum-building win has given Cincinnati a 1 1/2-game cushion atop the Central as it continues its longest homestand of the season Friday night by looking for some revenge against Luke Hochevar(notes) and the Royals.

It’s hard to point to the Reds’ three losses at Kauffman Stadium from June 12-14, 2009, as the ones that ruined a strong first few months for manager Dusty Baker’s club, but getting outscored 18-6 against a team that went on to lose 97 games certainly didn’t help.

This season, Cincinnati (35-26) seems built to contend deep into the summer if for no other reason than its comeback ability. The Reds notched their 21st come-from-behind victory and their major league-leading 12th in their last at-bat Thursday, this time getting an eighth-inning, two-run triple from Brandon Phillips(notes) to beat San Francisco 7-6.

“I don’t know if you expect it, but I know everybody believes, from the players to the administrative assistants to the grounds crew,” Baker said. “Don’t turn off the TV if we’ve still got bats in our hands.”

After Cincinnati split four games with the Giants to begin its 10-game homestand, Baker didn’t waste much time looking ahead to a weekend visit from the Royals (25-36).

“We have a tough Kansas City team coming in here,” Baker told the Reds’ official website. “They were tough on us last year.”

The Royals are 14-13 since May 13, but they nearly found themselves a game under .500 in that stretch despite jumping out to a big lead Thursday at Minnesota. Kansas City led the Twins 8-1 after six innings but had to hold on for a 9-8 win, getting the winning run on Wilson Betemit’s(notes) ninth-inning homer, his second of the game.

“We scored nine runs and needed every one of them,” manager Ned Yost said. “But, it was a good win for us.”

Kansas City certainly has the right man on the mound to make it four straight victories over Cincinnati. Luke Hochevar (5-4, 4.74 ERA) kicked off the Royals’ three-game sweep last season by going the distance and yielding just three Reds hits in a 4-1 victory.

The top pick in the 2006 draft has pitched well lately after a rough start to 2010. Hochevar had a 5.86 ERA after eight starts but is 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA in his last four outings, holding opponents to a .214 average.

He gave up one run over seven innings Saturday against Detroit, striking out 10, but got no help before exiting the 4-2 loss.

“That’s as good as I’ve ever seen Hoch pitch,” Yost told the Royals’ official website. “There’s a difference between standing on the mound and throwing a pitch and Hoch was a big league pitcher tonight.”

Hochevar has a 6.32 ERA away from home, but he’s won four of five decisions.

Bronson Arroyo(notes) (5-3, 4.65) is coming off an effective road start without a decision in Washington. The right-hander limited the Nationals to two runs over eight innings Sunday in Cincinnati’s 5-4, 10-inning win.

That’s far better than Arroyo fared against the Royals last season. He gave up six runs and 11 hits over five innings in a 7-4 loss on June 13, and has a 7.30 ERA in his last seven interleague starts.

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Starting Pitchers

L. Hochevar KC vs. B. Arroyo Ari
6-6 Record 17-10
4.81 ERA 3.88
76 K 121
37 BB 59
1.43 WHIP 1.15

Scoreboard

Friday, Jun 11