Phillies go for sweep against Reds

PHILADELPHIA — Nick Pivetta was sharp in the Philadelphia Phillies‘ home opener last week. He will try to close out the team’s first homestand of the season in similar fashion.

Pivetta will be on the mound for the Phillies on Wednesday night when they finish a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Phillies, who are 4-1 at Citizens Bank Park in 2018, are going for a sweep of Cincinnati.

Pivetta (1-0, 2.79 ERA), a 25-year-old right-hander, had nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 shutout innings against the Miami Marlins on hursday. It marked the fifth time in 30 career starts that Pivetta recorded at least nine strikeouts.

“Me and (catcher Jorge Alfaro) had a really good game plan going in it,” Pivetta told reporters after his first win of 2018. “I think the key was getting some breaking balls early in the count, keeping them off my fastball. It worked really well.”

Pivetta, in his second major league season, has never faced the Reds.

Cincinnati will also send a second-year big leaguer to the mound in the series finale. Right-hander Luis Castillo (0-2, 9.00) will try to brush off a pair of shaky starts to begin his 2018 campaign.

Castillo has given up 10 earned runs on 12 hits and four walks in his first 10 innings of the season. As a team, the Reds have given up 13 and 14 runs, respectively, in Castillo’s first two outings.

“I know these last two starts were not great,” Castillo told MLB.com after giving up four runs in five innings against the Pirates on Friday. “I know I’m going to pick it up, I’m going to pick my pace up, and everything’s going to be fine after that.”

Castillo had a 3.12 ERA and 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 15 starts as a rookie in 2017, but he has never pitched against the Phillies.

A win would put Philadelphia above .500 for the first time this season. The Phillies have not been above the .500 mark since they were 11-10 on April 28, 2017.

The Phillies have hit three grand slams on their homestand. The first two came in a 20-1 blowout win against the Marlins on Saturday night. The third was off the bat of rookie Scott Kingery on Tuesday.

Kingery has hit his first two career home runs in his last two games, upping his average to .258 and his OPS to .872.

The Reds, meanwhile, have won only two of their first 10 games in 2018 and enter Wednesday’s matchup on a three-game losing streak. They had only three hits in their 6-1 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday night and the team’s 6.04 ERA is the worst in baseball.

“There hasn’t been any particular part of our game so far that has shown up consistently, pitching or offense,” Reds manager Bryan Price told reporters after Tuesday’s loss. “That’s what we’re looking for, to get much more consistency from both from where the games are more competitive and where we can deal with some leads and find ways to finish off games. Right now it’s a challenge.”