National League Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, May 31
(All times Eastern)
Cincinnati Reds (33-21) at Pittsburgh Pirates (34-20), 7:05 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Cincinnati - Johnny Cueto (2-0, 2.76)
Pittsburgh - Wandy Rodriguez (6-2, 3.58)
(Sports Network) - The Cincinnati Reds pay a visit to the increasingly
daunting PNC Park on Friday, as they open a key three-game series with the NL
Central-rival Pittsburgh Pirates.
Despite winning 14 of its last 19 games and entering the weekend 12 games
above .500, Cincinnati finds itself in third place in the NL Central, 2 1/2
games back of St. Louis and one game behind the surging Pirates. The Reds
swept a quick two-game set at home over the Indians earlier this week, but
then lost the next two in Cleveland to close out the rare home-and-home
The Reds were done in by Jason Giambi's three-run home run in the sixth inning
of Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Cleveland. The following night, the Tribe erupted
for seven runs in the fourth. The back-to-back losses dropped the Reds to
13-14 on the road, while they are 20-7 at home this season.
Pittsburgh has won three straight and 16 of its last 20 to move into second
place in the division standings. The Pirates have won six in a row at home,
their longest such streak since 2008. The pitching staff has been behind that
success, boasting a collective 1.45 ERA during those six wins.
Despite the team's recent success, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle downplayed the
significance of the divisional showdown.
"I'm not wired that way," Hurdle said. "I need to be constant, a guy they can
depend on to show up the same way every day. If I show up with a heightened
sense of awareness, it might affect some in a good way, some in a bad way.
Every game has value to me, and that's a point I stress to them.
"It will be an interesting series. One we're looking forward to as, I'm sure,
The Pirates are coming off Thursday's 1-0 win over the Tigers in 11 innings,
as six Bucs pitchers combined for the shutout.
The Pirates will hand the ball to Wandy Rodriguez, who is seeking a career-
best fifth straight victory. However, the southpaw was not his sharpest at
Milwaukee on Sunday, when he allowed three runs on seven hits and exited after
five innings. Rodriguez is also winless over his last five outings against
Cincinnati with a 5.28 ERA.
For the Reds, starter Johnny Cueto is returning to the ballpark where he
suffered a strained right triceps on April 13 and was subsequently shelved for
Cueto is coming off a solid showing against the Cubs on Sunday. He allowed
just one run in seven innings but came away with a no-decision.
"Outstanding stuff," manager Dusty Baker said after the game. "That's Johnny.
He was throwing like he wasn't afraid of hurting anything. He was a little
tentative his last time out (against the Mets), but he was a lot sharper and
more aggressive than he was in New York."
The Pirates swept a three-game series over the Reds at PNC Park during the
season's first month (April 12-14).
05/31 10:51:59 ET