Surging Rockies go for three-game sweep over Reds

Before the Colorado Rockies gear up for a big weekend back home at Coors Field, they’re hoping to take care of a final piece of business in Cincinnati.

The Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks are tied for first place in the NL West with identical 32-29 records — Arizona’s 18 losses in 25 games are helping make it a race — and the teams meet this weekend in Denver for the first time since the opening week of the season. Then, Arizona took two of three from Colorado at Chase Field.

But before the Rockies’ German Marquez (4-5) matches up against Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke (4-4) on Friday night to start a three-game series that will determine which team ends the weekend in first place, the Rockies will try to wrap up a three-game sweep of the Reds on Thursday at Great American Ball Park.

It’s a quick turnaround, too, with an early afternoon start following the Rockies’ 6-3 win Wednesday night. Despite being outhit for a second straight night, the Rockies won behind No. 7 hitter Ian Desmond’s two-run home run and two RBIs apiece from No. 6 hitter Gerardo Parra and No. 8 hitter Tony Wolters.

“It was a good team win,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “There were some good things offensively. Some good things from the deeper part of the order.”

Those good things include Desmond, who continues to struggle average-wise — he’s hitting .196 — but now has 11 homers and 33 RBIs following a terrible start to the season. Also, struggling starting pitcher Jon Gray (6-6) got the win despite allowing three runs and seven hits over five innings.

“I think we’re getting closer, there were definitely some things I can take away from this,” said Gray, whose only two wins in the last month have been against the Reds.

The last-place Reds lost their eighth in 11 games — including their fourth in five games against the Rockies — while leaving 13 on base and going 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position. They have 28 hits in the first two games of the series yet have stranded 23 runners while being outscored 15-9.

“That’s pretty much the story. We get a lot of hits. We’ve got to get some timely hits,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “Getting three runs out of those hits, that’s not enough. We’d like to be able to put five or six on the board. … (But) that’s a good lineup over there.”

Scooter Gennett had an RBI double off Gray and a sacrifice fly and Joey Votto had a pair of hits, but stranded four runners. Scott Schebler went 2-for-5 but stranded five runners.

“We’re not winning games, so there’s not too many plusses to think about… We’ve got a lot of individuals doing good things, but we’ve got to collectively do more to win some games,” Riggleman said. “It’s not satisfactory.”

The starting pitchers Thursday– left-hander Tyler Anderson (3-1, 5.07 ERA) of Colorado and right-hander Tyler Mahle (4-6, 4.38) of Cincinnati — also matched up May 26 in Denver, but neither figured in the decision as Cincinnati won 6-5.

Anderson lasted six innings, allowing six hits — including homers by Gennett and Tony Cruz — and three runs over six innings. Mahle surrendered four runs and six hits over five innings while walking four and striking out four.

Neither pitcher has much experience with the other team. That May 26 start was the only one for Mahle against the Rockies, with Charlie Blackmon going 2-for-2 with a triple and an RBI and David Dahl hitting a double and driving in three runs.

Mahle bounced back from that start with a better performance Friday against the Padres, giving up five hits over five shutout innings while striking out five and lowering his ERA from 4.76 to 4.38 in a 7-2 Reds victory.

Anderson has faced the Reds twice before, going 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings. Gennett is 3-for-3 against him — Gennett had five hits in the May 26 game — while Eugenio Suarez is 2-for-6 (.333) with a homer and Cruz is 2-for-3 (.667) with a homer.

In his last start, Anderson didn’t figure in the decision in the Rockies’ 11-8 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, allowing five runs and seven hits in five innings. Anderson has yielded eight runs over 11 innings of his last two starts.