The Cincinnati Reds seem to be comfortably headed back to the postseason, but they’re about to have a chance to become a major factor in the NL Central race.
Before beginning a 10-game stretch that includes seven meetings with St. Louis, the Reds will try to avoid overlooking the visiting Milwaukee Brewers and take this three-game set Sunday.
Cincinnati (74-56) has built a sizable cushion in the race for the NL’s second wild-card spot, but the team is also 2 1/2 games back of Central co-leaders Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
The Reds are about to get a good chance to further tighten the chase as they open a three-game road series with the Cardinals on Monday.
They may have a tough task in Sunday’s finale against Milwaukee (56-73). Greg Reynolds (0-1, 9.00 ERA) will make just his second major league start since 2011 in place of Tony Cingrani, who is nursing a strained lower back that has bothered him for the last few weeks.
The injury became a serious problem for the rookie left-hander on Tuesday, when he was forced to exit with two outs in the fourth.
“If something happened to him, we couldn’t really afford a short outing to use my bullpen again, especially before we get to St. Louis,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Reynolds, who arrived from Triple-A Louisville on Saturday, allowed five runs in five innings of a 5-3 loss at San Francisco on July 23, his first appearance since 2011 with Colorado.
“I think I’ll be a little more comfortable this time, just having met everybody,” Reynolds said. “In San Francisco, things were moving a little fast in that first inning and I was having a tough time slowing it down. I don’t anticipate that will be an issue again.
“There was a lot of other stuff that went along with it, with family and friends coming out. This one will be a little more comfortable.”
The right-hander has been superb with Louisville, going 12-3 with a 2.42 ERA in 23 games while tossing three complete games. He’s compiled a 1.75 ERA over his last five contests – four starts.
Now, he’ll try to help Cincinnati win for the 12th time in 15 home meetings with Milwaukee after a 6-3 victory Saturday.
The Brewers have dropped four of six games, and will turn to Marco Estrada (5-4, 4.80).
The right-hander didn’t get a decision after allowing four runs and eight hits – two homers – in six innings of an 8-5 loss to the Cardinals on Monday.
That outing came at Miller Park, but Estrada has been far better on the road. He has a 2.88 ERA in eight starts away from home, allowing five homers in 50 innings, and a 7.43 ERA in seven outings in Milwaukee while serving up 12 blasts in 36 1-3.
He yielded one run and five hits over 11 innings in his two latest road outings after returning from a strained left hamstring that sidelined him for more than two months.
Estrada went 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts at Cincinnati last year, striking out 17 in 13 innings but also allowing four homers.
Two of those came off the bat of Jay Bruce, who Estrada will want to be especially careful with Sunday. Cincinnati’s right fielder has homered off Estrada once in each of the last four games they’ve faced one another.
Bruce, however, hasn’t gone deep in his past 15 games.