After a brief slump resulted in a three-game losing streak, the Cincinnati Reds reignited their powerful offense to end their homestand with a victory.
The Reds open their six-game West Coast trip against last-place Seattle on Friday night, but they will have a challenge on their hands when the Mariners’ ace left-hander takes the mound.
The NL’s most productive lineup in terms of runs and batting average has been a big reason for Cincinnati’s surge to the top of the NL Central. However, the Reds (37-30) totaled five runs in three games between Sunday and Wednesday, causing their first three-game skid in nearly two months.
Home runs from Joey Votto(notes), Brandon Phillips(notes) and pitcher Bronson Arroyo(notes) in Thursday’s 7-1 win over the Dodgers helped to quickly end that funk. Phillips has been especially hot, batting .442 since May 28, with at least one hit in 17 of 18 games.
A frequent interleague opponent of the Reds while pitching for Cleveland, Lee (4-3, 2.88 ERA) has a spotty history against Cincinnati, going 3-2 with a 5.77 ERA.
Now, though, he’s looking to stay in a groove after working at least seven innings and allowing three or fewer runs in four straight starts. He has also achieved those results in seven of his nine outings for the Mariners.
Minimal run support and a late meltdown by the Seattle bullpen were among the reasons Lee was the loser in Saturday’s 7-1 defeat at San Diego.
“Cliff was outstanding,” manager Don Wakamatsu told the Mariners’ official website. “… It’s just a shame again the offense didn’t step up to protect him or give him the lead.”
The Mariners (25-41) haven’t been able to shake their offensive woes. They have averaged fewer than 2.5 runs over their last 13 games, losing 10 of them, and needed a brilliant outing from left-hander Jason Vargas(notes) to beat San Diego 2-1 on Wednesday.
Seattle ranks last in the majors in home runs (38) and among the bottom five in runs and batting average.
That may give Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto(notes) (6-1, 4.50) a good opportunity to bounce back from a shaky stretch of starts. While Cueto has won his last six decisions dating to April, he has a 9.00 ERA in three June outings.
“I felt strong, and I was trying to throw too hard,” Cueto said after allowing five runs and four walks in Saturday’s 11-5 win over Kansas City. “(Pitching coach) Bryan Price told me in the clubhouse to relax. I was overthrowing and opening up.”
The Reds have lost five of six all-time meetings against the Mariners, scoring two or fewer runs in each defeat. Led by two homers from Phillips, they won 16-1 at Seattle on June 22, 2007.
Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) played in that game for the Reds. The star outfielder, who played all but 41 of his 2,671 major league games for either Cincinnati or Seattle, retired from the Mariners on June 2.