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Major League Baseball
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National League Preview from The Sports Network

Saturday, August 4th (All times eastern)

Pittsburgh Pirates (60-45) at Cincinnati Reds (65-41), 7:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Pittsburgh - James McDonald (10-5, 3.38) Cincinnati - Mike Leake (4-7, 4.44)

(Sports Network) - The Cincinnati Reds look to further distance themselves from the Pittsburgh Pirates atop the National League Central when the two rivals resume a three-game series tonight at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds pushed their lead in the division standings to 4 1/2 games ahead of Pittsburgh with Friday's 3-0 win in the series opener. Reds starter Mat Latos struck out five in 7 1/3 shutout innings for his 10th win (10-3) and helped his own cause with a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning.

"Latos hit his third career home run and that was a big, big blow," said Reds manager Dusty Baker of his starter. "He pitched a good ballgame. That was Latos' night tonight hitting and pitching."

Chris Heisey added an inside-the-park home run for the Reds, who have won four in a row and 14 of their last 15 games, and are 4-1 on a seven-game homestand. The club is surprisingly 15-3 since slugger Joey Votto landed on the disabled list with an injured left knee.

The Reds are 12-3 at Great American Ball Park since the All-Star break. They hope to get second baseman Brandon Phillips back after a three-game absence due to a strained left calf.

Mike Leake draws the start for Cincinnati tonight and he is coming off a rough performance in which he permitted five runs and five hits through 1 2/3 innings of an 11-5 setback to San Diego on Monday. Leake, who tossed eight innings of two-run ball before that last outing, is 4-7 with a 4.44 earned run average in 20 starts this season.

Leake, a right-hander, is 0-1 in two starts against the Pirates this season and 1-3 with a 3.16 ERA in eight career meetings.

Pittsburgh is still a solid 11-5 in its last 16 games and had a two-game win streak stopped in Friday's loss.

Newcomer Wandy Rodriguez pitched well in defeat, allowing three runs in seven innings, while Andrew McCutchen had one of the team's four hits. McCutchen leads the Majors with a .373 average.

"Across the board they pitched a little better than us, they hit better than us," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "So, we'll bounce back tomorrow."

Neil Walker went 0-for-2 at the plate and is still one home run shy of matching his career high of 12 hit in 2010 and 2011. Garrett Jones was hitless in four at-bats and entered the night having hit safely in nine straight games, going 11-for-33 (.333) with three home runs and nine RBI.

The Pirates are 5-3 on a 10-game road trip and will send James McDonald to the bump this evening. McDonald has lost two starts in a row since going 5-0 in his previous six trips to the hill, and has allowed at least four runs in each of his past four starts (20 overall).

McDonald, a right-hander, previously toed the rubber in Sunday's 9-5 loss at Houston in which he gave up five runs in five innings to fall to 10-5 in 21 starts to go along with a 3.38 earned run average. McDonald has won both of his starts against Cincinnati this season and is 5-1 with a 2.31 ERA in 10 career games (7 starts) in this series.

The Pirates and Reds have split 10 meetings this season.

Following this weekend's series, the Pirates and Reds will play six more times in the regular season. There's a three-game series in Cincinnati scheduled for Sept. 10-12 and a three-game set in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28-30.

08/04 10:53:01 ET

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