The Cincinnati Reds hold the final wild-card spot in the NL, but a Central Division title remains a strong possibility if they continue to play the way they have of late.
Trying to match a season high with their sixth consecutive victory, the visiting Reds look to continue their surge by handing the Milwaukee Brewers a third straight defeat Friday night.
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While Pittsburgh and St. Louis have struggled of late, Cincinnati (69-52) has won five straight and eight of nine to move within one-half game of the second-place Cardinals and 2 1/2 behind the division-leading Pirates.
“The Pirates lost (6-5 in 12 innings at St. Louis on Thursday), so we picked up another game on them, it was really big,” winning pitcher Tony Cingrani said after Thursday’s 2-1 victory at Milwaukee.
Cingrani pitched 6 1-3 strong innings and Joey Votto hit a go-ahead solo homer in the sixth to help the Reds prevail.
Cincinnati won six in a row May 10-16.
Reds pitchers have a 1.55 ERA the last nine games, and the starters have yielded five of their six earned runs on four homers over 34 2-3 innings during the five-game winning streak.
Scheduled Cincinnati starter Mike Leake (10-5, 2.86) is 0-1 in his last three starts but has allowed two and no runs during a pair of seven-inning outings during the stretch. He gave up one earned in seven innings of a 3-2, 13-inning victory over San Diego on Sunday.
The right-hander surrendered two runs, four hits and walked four in 8 1-3 innings of a 6-2 win at Milwaukee on July 10.
He won’t have to face Milwaukee (52-69) All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez, who sprained his right knee while making a leaping catch at the center field wall in the fourth inning Thursday. Gomez is expected to undergo an MRI on Friday.
“When I start walking around, it starts to feel better but when I try to run, my knee doesn’t let me,” said Gomez, who is 8 for 50 with 17 strikeouts in his last 16 games.
Losers in six of eight at Miller Park, the Brewers hope Tom Gorzelanny (3-4, 2.51) can build on his last outing when he allowed three hits and fanned seven in seven innings of a 10-0 rout of Seattle on Saturday.
The veteran left-hander is 2-3, but with a 2.61 ERA while making six straight starts.
“I’m not calling it a renaissance. I’m just trying to do my best out there and have a good effort each time,” said Gorzelanny, who bounced back after he left in the first inning from taking a liner to the elbow in his previous start versus Washington on Aug. 2. “I’m not really thinking about what could happen or how things will shake out.”
He’s 0-3 with a 4.44 ERA in his last four starts against the Reds, but has not faced them since 2010.
Votto, who is 3 for 20 with seven strikeouts versus Gorzelanny, is batting .356 with three homers and 10 RBIs in his last 12 at Miller Park.