Reds-Pirates Preview

The Cincinnati Reds need to win their final five games to avoid

a 10th sub-.500 season in the last 11 years. Travis Wood would like

nothing more than to help the Reds end on a positive note.

The left-hander looks to extend his 16-inning scoreless streak

Saturday night as Cincinnati tries to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates

and avoid its first four-game skid on the road since May.

After winning their first division title in 15 years last season

with a 91-71 record, the Reds (76-81) will finish nowhere near that

mark in 2011. Cincinnati can end up no better than break-even

following Friday’s 4-3 series-opening loss.

“It is key to finish up strong,” Wood told the Reds’ official

website. “That’s the last thing people remember.”

That could be a good thing for the second-year left-hander, who

started the season in the starting rotation before getting demoted

twice to Triple-A Louisville.

Wood (6-5, 4.62 ERA), though, has not allowed a run in his last

five appearances. Making a spot start Monday in place of Dontrelle

Willis (back spasms), he threw five shutout innings in a 3-2 loss

to Houston.

“You don’t see many guys that go out and pitch 1 1/3 innings and

two days later start a ballgame,” manager Dusty Baker said of Wood,

who came out of the bullpen Saturday and struck out three in a 10-1

loss to Milwaukee. “I wish he could have gone longer, but that’s as

long as he should have gone tonight.”

Wood threw seven innings of two-hit ball in his only career

start in Pittsburgh – a 4-0 victory Aug. 2, 2010 – but he was

tagged for six runs in 3 1-3 innings – matching his shortest career

start – in a 9-3 home loss to the Pirates on April 18.

While Wood will try to prevent a fourth straight Reds road loss

– their longest skid since a season-worst 0-5 stretch May 11-23,

the Pirates (70-87) will give the ball to Brad Lincoln (1-3, 4.85)

on Saturday.

The right-hander is coming off his shortest career start, a 15-1

road loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday when he needed 51

pitches to go 1 2-3 innings.

“It was just one of those days,” Lincoln told the Pirates’

official website. “I didn’t have my stuff. Everything I seemed to

throw at them, they seemed to hit.”

This will be his first start against the Reds.

Lincoln should be careful pitching to Brandon Phillips and Joey

Votto. Phillips is 9 for 17 (.529) with a homer and five RBIs in

the last four games in Pittsburgh, while Votto is 5 for 15 with two

home runs and eight RBIs during those contests.

Votto is one RBI shy of becoming the first Red with 100 in

back-to-back seasons since Dave Parker in 1985-86.

Cincinnati has dropped nine of 13 in this divisional matchup in