The NL’s most potent lineup is perhaps the biggest reason the Cincinnati Reds remain atop the NL Central, but the San Francisco Giants were the team that resembled an offensive juggernaut in the clubs’ series opener.
The Reds (72-53) remain atop the NL in batting average (.271) and runs (617), and they averaged 5.9 runs while winning eight of nine before Monday’s game.
The Giants (70-56), meanwhile, had totaled one run in their previous two games, but they scored five runs in the first inning of an 11-2 win. The victory opened a nine-game homestand with what starter Matt Cain(notes) called a “momentum builder.”
Despite losing five of its previous seven, San Francisco pulled within one game of Philadelphia in the wild-card race, thanks in part to three hits and three RBIs each from Aubrey Huff(notes) and Pablo Sandoval(notes).
“Right now we are under fire in a pennant race,” Sandoval said. “Forget the pennant race. We need to win games right now.”
While Huff has been one of the club’s most consistent contributors, Sandoval may finally be emerging from a season-long slump.
The third baseman is batting .267 with 10 homers after leading the Giants with a .330 average and 25 homers last year, but Sandoval has shown some power lately with four homers in his last 11 games.
San Francisco’s hitters may all face a challenge as they face Wood (4-1, 2.51 ERA) for the first time.
Opponents are hitting .176 against the left-hander, who returned from a brief stint with Triple-A Louisville to beat Arizona on Thursday, allowing one run in 6 1-3 innings of the 9-5 victory.
“He threw the ball excellently,” manager Dusty Baker told the Reds’ official website.
It took Wood six starts to get his first major league victory, but he has posted a 2.19 ERA while winning four consecutive outings - all on the road. The Reds hope he can pitch deep into the game after their bullpen was forced to work 8 1-3 innings following Edinson Volquez’s(notes) early exit Monday.
Despite the loss, Cincinnati is 14-5 on the road since the All-Star break, with slugger Joey Votto(notes) batting .406 with 16 RBIs in that stretch. That has helped the Reds take a 2 1/2-game division lead over St. Louis.
Cincinnati may have to operate with a depleted lineup Tuesday against San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez(notes) (9-8, 3.47). Outfielder Jim Edmonds(notes) (strained oblique) and Laynce Nix(notes) (sprained ankle) both left Monday’s game.
The Reds encounter a tough task if Sanchez pitches like he did Thursday. Coming off back-to-back losses, the left-hander limited Philadelphia to one run and two hits in eight-plus innings during a 5-2 victory.
“He had a great look about him,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He looked very determined to get back on track.”
Sanchez, who is 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA in three career starts against Cincinnati, has a chance to reach double digits in victories for the first time. He also won nine games in 2008.
A Giants win would also end the Reds’ streak of six consecutive series victories on the road - and San Francisco’s string of three straight series losses overall.