Cincinnati (86-67) at San Diego (85-67)

  • Game info: 10:05 pm EDT Fri Sep 24, 2010
  • TV: FSOH, Ch4
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The last time the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres met, they weren’t expected to be a factor in September.

Now, the Reds are on the brink of their first NL Central title in 15 years, while the Padres’ postseason hopes will be determined in the final two weeks.

Getting Joey Votto(notes) back might move Cincinnati closer to that elusive division crown when they face San Diego in the opener of a three-game series Friday night.

The Reds (86-67) dropped two of three to the Padres (85-67) at home from April 23-25 when both teams were considered long shots to make the playoffs.

Instead of fading in their respective divisions, Cincinnati and San Diego may end up finishing atop them.

The Reds are comfortably leading the Central by 7 1/2 games over second-place St. Louis with nine games remaining, making their magic number to clinch three.

The Padres’ playoff chances aren’t as simple. They’re second in the West, one-half game behind San Francisco, and also one-half game in back of Atlanta for the wild card.

Cincinnati’s playoff hopes could receive a boost with Votto slated to return after sitting out two games with a sinus infection. The club certainly missed his bat in Wednesday’s 13-1 loss at Milwaukee.

“We thought it was best to wait until Friday,” manager Dusty Baker told the team’s official website.

The All-Star first baseman is a leading candidate for the NL MVP, and is in the running to become the league’s first Triple Crown winner since Joe Medwick in 1937. Votto is second with a .323 batting average, tied for second with 35 homers and third with 106 RBIs.

He went 1 for 10 against San Diego in April. However, he’s 7 for 20 with two homers and five RBIs in six games at Petco Park.

Bronson Arroyo(notes) (16-10, 3.98) will try to provide another strong effort on the mound for the Reds after winning his last two starts with a 2.25 ERA while setting a career high in victories. The right-hander had lost his previous three games with a 6.75 ERA.

Arroyo might be in for another tough outing. He’s dropped his last three starts versus the Padres, posting a 7.71 ERA.

He was pounded against them April 23, surrendering eight runs and eight hits in three innings of a 10-4 defeat.

Cincinnati has lost nine of its last 12 at San Diego, including four in a row.

The Padres, who haven’t reached the postseason since 2006, are opening a seven-game homestand before concluding the regular season with a potentially vital three-game set at San Francisco next weekend.

They relinquished the division lead to the Giants on Thursday after losing 3-1 at Los Angeles, their fifth defeat in eight games.

Chris Young (1-0, 0.90) might provide an emotional lift with his first home start since returning from his most recent stay on the disabled list. The right-hander has been plagued by injuries over the last three years.

He returned from a shoulder strain Saturday, allowing one run and three hits in four innings of an 8-4 win at St. Louis.

“I don’t remember the last time I pitched with that much adrenaline,” said Young, who hadn’t pitched since April 6. “I got to the mound and my heart was just thumping, I could feel it in my chest. I was trying to slow myself down, but I couldn’t.”

Young has faced the Reds once, and didn’t get a decision in a loss on Sept. 12, 2006.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Arroyo WAS vs. C. Young KC
17-10 Record 2-0
3.88 ERA 0.90
121 K 15
59 BB 11
1.15 WHIP 1.05

Scoreboard

Friday, Sep 24