The Cincinnati Reds have looked at several options for a spark from the leadoff spot. Brandon Phillips’(notes) recent output is making it real difficult to even consider moving him back down in the order.
Phillips will try to continue his hot hitting Sunday and help the Reds cap a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals, who hope to avoid a season high-tying sixth consecutive loss.
Cincinnati has used Drew Stubbs(notes), Chris Heisey(notes), Fred Lewis(notes) and Dave Sappelt(notes) at the top of the order this year. Those players have combined for a .251 average with 18 homers and 49 RBIs in 122 games.
With two hits and an RBI in Saturday’s 6-3 win, Phillips has gone 19 for 43 (.442) with 10 RBIs in 10 games when batting leadoff, helping the Reds (66-66) to a 7-3 record.
“I went to (manager Dusty Baker) and said, ‘Hey, Dust, let’s try something different,”’ Phillips said. “I felt comfortable hitting there last year. Why not try something that got us going last year.”
In 72 games a year ago, Phillips batted .251 with eight of his 18 homers coming from atop the order.
Should the Reds complete their first sweep of the Nationals franchise since July 2008, they will move one game over .500 for the first time since July 3, when they were 43-42.
Phillips has two singles in two career at-bats against Jordan Zimmermann(notes) (8-11, 3.10 ERA), who is expected to make his final start of the season for Washington. In his first full season after Tommy John surgery, Zimmermann is three innings short of a team-ordered limit of 160.
He will try to avoid back-to-back losses after falling 2-0 to Arizona on Tuesday. Zimmermann gave up a two-run homer among five hits in 6 1-3 innings.
It was the fifth homer Zimmerman has served up in six starts, matching the total from his first 19 games.
The right-hander surrendered six hits and walked two in 5 2-3 scoreless innings of a 3-1 win over Cincinnati on Aug. 18.
The Reds’ Johnny Cueto(notes) (9-5, 2.03) has allowed two homers in eight second-half starts, and comes in looking for his third straight win over the Nationals. The right-hander leads the league in ERA while holding opponents to a league-best .203 average.
On Aug. 17, Cueto gave up a run and six hits in eight innings en route to a 2-1 victory in the nation’s capital. He’s 4-2 with a 4.17 ERA in six career starts versus Washington.
Cueto walked a season-high six over five innings Tuesday against Florida, but didn’t get a decision in the Reds’ 8-6 win. He had issued six bases on balls in his previous four starts combined.
“He never really settled in,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He was in trouble all of the time. That’s not like Johnny to walk people.”
Zimmerman has gone 0 for 9 in the series and 1 for 17 over his last four games, dropping his average 15 points to .295.