The D-backs (53-39) take a season-long five-game losing streak to Cincinnati to battle a Reds (39-53) team that got the negative streak started. Cincinnati sent the D-backs into the All-Star break with a two-game losing streak by limiting them to one run total in back-to-back victories at Chase Field on July 8-9. The Atlanta Braves tacked three more losses onto the D-backs' ledger coming out of the break.
Despite a 3-11 stretch, the D-backs remain in second place in the NL West and in the lead position for an NL wild card berth. But they are now 10 ½ games behind the Dodgers in the, and 1 game up on the Rockies in the wild-card race. The Cubs have crept within 5 ½ in the wild-card picture.
"Nothing is really coming easy," catcher Chris Iannetta said after Sunday's 7-1 loss at Atlanta. "No one is handing us anything. It's just one of those stretches. It's tough. We'll just keep grinding through it."
The Reds have lost four in a row since ending the first half on a high note in Phoenix. They were outscored 35-12 in a four-game sweep by Washington and gave up 13 home runs in the four losses.
D-backs starting pitcher Robbie Ray (8-4, 2.97 ERA)
Ray was chosen for last week's All-Star game but didn't pitch, so he's been well rested since his last start on July 6 against the Dodgers. He struck out 13 in six innings while limiting the Dodgers to five hits and one run but left with no decision in a game the D-backs eventually lost 5-4.
Ray has the lowest road ERA in the major league -- 1.34 ERA in eight starts, and he's second in the NL to Max Scherzer with 11.97 strikeouts per nine innings.
He is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in two career starts vs. the Reds.
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Reds starting pitcher Sal Romano (1-1, 4.50 ERA)
Romano, 23, will be making his third career start. He was the winning pitcher on July 6 at Colorado, holding the Rockies to two earned runs and six hits over five innings at Coors Field. He is one of seven rookie pitchers to start a game for the Reds this season.
He's made 10 starts for Triple-A Louisville this season, compiling a 1-4 record with a 3.47 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 17 walks in 49 1/3 innings.
"He's a big, strong kid who creates some good downward plane," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He can pitch to contact and get some quick outs. The biggest challenge for a young pitcher is to be yourself and unload the pressures. He's done a good job of that."
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Offensive struggles continue
The D-backs managed just three extra-base hits in getting swept by the Braves -- a home run by Paul Goldschmidt and doubles by Daniel Descalso and Chris Herrmann. All-Star third baseman Jake Lamb had a particularly rough series -- going 1 for 12 with six strikeouts.
Over their last nine games (eight losses), they are 12 for 64 (.188) with runners in scoring position with three extra-base hits. They've scored a total of 22 runs in those nine games.
Brandon Drury, who homered in three consecutive games from June 10 to June 13, has hit a home run since -- a stretch of 23 games. Goldschmidt is second in the NL in RBI (71) and is third in runs (74) but hasn't had much help lately. Maybe some will come from A.J. Pollock, who is just 5 for 27 (.185) since returning from a strained groin. Pollock is 13 for 23 (.565) in his career at Great American Ball Park.
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Joey Votto, who homered twice against the D-backs in three games at Chase Field, is second in the NL with 26 home runs but is 1 for 11 since returning from the All-Star break. Votto is a .349 career hitter against the D-backs with nine home runs in 45 games.
The Reds have a wealth of power sources in addition to Votto. Scott Schebler has 22 home runs, Adam Duvall 20, Scott Gennett 16 and Eugenio Suarez 13. Cincinnati and Miami are the only teams with 20 or more homers from three different batters.
Gennett, cut loose by the Brewers after last season, has been the biggest revelation. He's hit .337 with nine homers and 22 RBI over the past month. Prior to this season he had never hit more than 14 home runs in a season -- major or minor leagues.