Reds-Giants Preview

The NL’s most potent lineup is perhaps the biggest reason the

Cincinnati Reds remain atop the NL Central, but the San Francisco

Giants were the team that resembled an offensive juggernaut in the

clubs’ series opener.

Reds rookie Travis Wood hopes to quiet San Francisco’s bats and

win his fifth consecutive start as Cincinnati continues its road

trip on Tuesday night.

The Reds (72-53) remain atop the NL in batting average (.271)

and runs (617), and they averaged 5.9 runs while winning eight of

nine before Monday’s game.

The Giants (70-56), meanwhile, had totaled one run in their

previous two games, but they scored five runs in the first inning

of an 11-2 win. The victory opened a nine-game homestand with what

starter Matt Cain called a “momentum builder.”

Despite losing five of its previous seven, San Francisco pulled

within one game of Philadelphia in the wild-card race, thanks in

part to three hits and three RBIs each from Aubrey Huff and Pablo

Sandoval.

“Right now we are under fire in a pennant race,” Sandoval said.

“Forget the pennant race. We need to win games right now.”

While Huff has been one of the club’s most consistent

contributors, Sandoval may finally be emerging from a season-long

slump.

The third baseman is batting .267 with 10 homers after leading

the Giants with a .330 average and 25 homers last year, but

Sandoval has shown some power lately with four homers in his last

11 games.

San Francisco’s hitters may all face a challenge as they face

Wood (4-1, 2.51 ERA) for the first time.

Opponents are hitting .176 against the left-hander, who returned

from a brief stint with Triple-A Louisville to beat Arizona on

Thursday, allowing one run in 6 1-3 innings of the 9-5 victory.

“He threw the ball excellently,” manager Dusty Baker told the

Reds’ official website.

It took Wood six starts to get his first major league victory,

but he has posted a 2.19 ERA while winning four consecutive outings

– all on the road. The Reds hope he can pitch deep into the game

after their bullpen was forced to work 8 1-3 innings following

Edinson Volquez’s early exit Monday.

Despite the loss, Cincinnati is 14-5 on the road since the

All-Star break, with slugger Joey Votto batting .406 with 16 RBIs

in that stretch. That has helped the Reds take a 2 1/2-game

division lead over St. Louis.

Cincinnati may have to operate with a depleted lineup Tuesday

against San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez (9-8, 3.47). Outfielder

Jim Edmonds (strained oblique) and Laynce Nix (sprained ankle) both

left Monday’s game.

The Reds encounter a tough task if Sanchez pitches like he did

Thursday. Coming off back-to-back losses, the left-hander limited

Philadelphia to one run and two hits in eight-plus innings during a

5-2 victory.

“He had a great look about him,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy

said. “He looked very determined to get back on track.”

Sanchez, who is 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA in three career starts

against Cincinnati, has a chance to reach double digits in

victories for the first time. He also won nine games in 2008.

A Giants win would also end the Reds’ streak of six consecutive

series victories on the road – and San Francisco’s string of three

straight series losses overall.