Reds-Diamondbacks Preview

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker knew the team’s current

stretch would be one of its toughest, but his club still has a firm

hold on the NL Central lead despite a bit of a slump.

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ current skid may be a little more

troubling for their postseason hopes.

Cincinnati sends Bronson Arroyo to the mound when it visits

Arizona for the opener of a three-game series Monday night.

By the time the Reds complete the upcoming series, they’ll have

played 17 games in 16 days – a stretch during which they’re

currently 8-6 following Sunday’s 8-2 loss to St. Louis.

Cincinnati (77-52), though, has a six-game lead over the

Cardinals in the Central despite losing three of its last four.

”This is a tough stretch for us. We knew it’d be tough,” Baker

said.

”We’ve got to push and push the next three days. These are the

dog days. We’ve got to finish strong in August.”

The Reds hope to get another solid outing out of Arroyo, who has

won three consecutive starts.

Arroyo (10-7, 3.87 ERA) improved to 6-1 with a 3.50 ERA in his

last seven outings after giving up two runs and three hits in eight

innings of Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Philadelphia.

”I had good stuff,” Arroyo said. ”I was hitting my spots on

both sides of the plate. It’s one of the best games I’ve

thrown.”

His current hot stretch began after he gave up five runs and

eight hits in a season-low three innings of a 5-3 loss to Arizona

on July 16 as the teams split a four-game series. Miguel Montero

homered off him in that contest and is 8 for 15 with three home

runs lifetime against the right-hander.

Arroyo had gone 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his previous four starts

versus the Diamondbacks, who are in danger of falling farther back

in the postseason race unless they can turn things around

quickly.

Arizona (64-64) has lost three straight and five of seven after

being swept at home by San Diego, falling 5-4 in Sunday’s finale.

The Diamondbacks, who also have dropped 10 of 14 at home and are

chasing San Francisco in the NL West, are 6 1/2 games behind St.

Louis for the second wild-card spot.

”When you get into streaks like this, sometimes it doesn’t seem

fair,” manager Kirk Gibson said. ”There (is) no rhyme or reason,

but it is the way it worked out for us.”

Diamondbacks starting pitchers have a 7.12 ERA over their last

seven games, and they traded left-hander Joe Saunders to Baltimore

for reliever Matt Lindstrom on Sunday.

One reason that mark isn’t even worse is because of a solid

performance from Tyler Skaggs, who will take the hill Monday.

Skaggs (1-0, 2.70) had an impressive major league debut

Wednesday, allowing two runs and three hits in 6 2-3 innings of a

3-2 win over Miami.

Gibson said the left-hander will see plenty more action this

season to help prepare him for the future.

“We’re going to keep Tyler in the rotation, just give him an

exposure to the situation we are in, in a pennant race, that’ll do

him well for next year as well,” Gibson told the team’s official

website.

The Reds announced Sunday that star first baseman Joey Votto,

who hasn’t played since July 15 after injuring his left knee, will

begin a rehab assignment with Single-A Dayton on Tuesday.