Red-hot Reds aim to beat White Sox again

The Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds are meeting for the first time in three years, so understandably they don’t know much about each other.

But the White Sox already know this: Don’t be confused by the Reds’ place in the standings. They’re not playing like a last-place team in the NL Central, even when they’re down late in a game.

And the White Sox pitchers will be told this constantly before the second game of the three-game series Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park: Anthony DeScalfani is a pitcher — and thus wouldn’t even take a swing in the American League — but is very dangerous with a bat in his hand in an NL ballpark.

But it took the Reds only one game to learn this: You must pitch to White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia very, very carefully.

The Reds overcame a Garcia homer and a two-run deficit to beat the White Sox 5-3 Monday night in the series opener — the byproduct of an unusual four-run rally in the eighth inning keyed by a bases-loaded grounder to first base in which the White Sox tried to get two outs and ended up with none.

Pinch-hitter Alex Blandino’s two-run double to right field off Chris Volstad broke a 3-all tie with two out in the eighth gave the Reds their third straight victory — 12th in 15 games and 15th in 20 games. They also dealt the White Sox their fourth loss in five games and 13th in 18 games.

“He was living on the outside corner, nibbling out there and didn’t want to give me anything to hit, but I was able to put a good swing on it,” said Blandino, who was 3-for-21 (.143) coming into that at-bat. “This is a game of opportunities, when things don’t go as well as you hoped, you’ve got to keep fighting. And tonight is a step in the right direction.

“It’s been awesome … it’s somebody different every night, and we’re loving it right now.”

The Reds still trail first-place Milwaukee by double digits in the division, but they’re creeping closer to fourth place Pittsburgh after being in last since the day the season started. And they now have a winning record under interim manager Jim Riggleman (34-33), who took over for Bryan Price when the Reds were 3-15.

“We had some really good at-bats … and (after the play at first) the opportunity was there for us to win it,” Riggleman said. “There was a lot of good baseball tonight.”

On Tuesday, White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito (5-7) will oppose Reds right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (3-1) in a matchup of pitchers who have never faced the other team. Giolito is 2-3 with a 6.81 ERA in his last seven starts, while DeSclafani has won his last three decisions.

Giolito is coming off perhaps his best start, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning before leaving after giving up one run in 6 1/3 innings Thursday in what became a 2-1, 13-inning White Sox loss to the Minnesota Twins.

“I’m starting to throw the ball a lot better, I feel like it’s coming better out of my hand,” Giolito told reporters after the game. “Just take some good lessons from (this). In the seventh inning, I kind of let some pitches get away from me there. I wasn’t executing like I was earlier in the game. (I’ll) learn from that.”

DeSclafani is a pleasant surprise to the Reds after missing all of last season and the first two months of this season with multiple injuries. Not only is he pitching well, he hit a grand slam, one of the Reds’ club record-tying nine this season, during a June 23 start against the Chicago Cubs. The Reds have six grand slams in their last 17 games.

The Reds started off Monday night with a Scott Schebler leadoff homer in the first, then did very little offensively until White Sox starter James Shields was lifted with two out in the seventh.

In the eighth, the Reds had the bases loaded with one out when Adam Duvall hit a grounder to first baseman Matt Davidson, who attempted to touch the base for the force out before throwing home to try to get Scooter Gennett at the plate. But Gennett slid in safely, and Duvall was ruled safe at first because Davidson threw home before stepping on the bag. That set up Duvall’s opposite-field game-winning hit.

Reds right-hander Luis Castillo held the White Sox to a run over 6 2/3 innings, and the Reds withstood Garcia’s fifth homer, a solo shot in the eighth off Jared Hughes. Garcia is 19-for-52 (.365) during a 12-game hitting streak. He also has six hits in his last two games and is 11-for-24 with two doubles, two triples and two home runs in his last five games.