Preview: Wacha winds up for a rebound in game 2 at Cincinnati
Homer Bailey finds himself on the verge of a career-high fifth consecutive win after shutting down the slumping St. Louis Cardinals last week.
Manager Mike Matheny's club also had a rough time at the plate in the opener of this crucial four-game set.
The Cincinnati Reds continue their playoff push as they try to inch even closer to their NL Central rivals Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.
Bailey (9-10, 3.55 ERA) followed a career-worst four-start losing streak by going 4-0 with a 2.83 ERA in his last six outings. The right-hander struck out seven over 7 1/3 innings of five-hit ball in a 10-0 rout at St. Louis on Wednesday.
Bailey has received an average of 7.62 runs of support during his winning streak, more than three runs higher than his season mark of 4.11.
"Usually, he's been our tough-luck guy, we haven't gotten him many runs," manager Dusty Baker said.
Bailey had gone 3-9 with a 5.61 ERA in his first 15 starts against the Cardinals prior to last week's performance. Matt Carpenter is 8 for 13 in their matchups, and Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina are a combined 20 for 54 (.370) with four homers.
Bailey will try to take advantage of a Cardinals team that has hit .195 in dropping four of five by a 31-10 margin. St. Louis (79-58) was limited to four hits Monday against Mat Latos, who went the distance in leading Cincinnati to a 7-2 victory.
Shin-Soo Choo hit a two-run homer and Joey Votto added a solo shot for the Reds (77-61), who climbed within 2 1/2 games of the Cardinals for the wild-card lead. Both teams are trying to catch division-leading Pittsburgh, which is one game ahead of St. Louis.
Cincinnati has dropped seven straight series to the Cardinals, going 6-10 against them this season.
"It starts at one," Baker said. "Hopefully this is just a beginning because we've got a lot of work to do, a long way to go."
The Reds are hoping to get a boost from speedster Billy Hamilton, who was recalled from Triple-A Louisville prior to Monday's win. The 22-year-old outfielder set a professional baseball single-season record with 175 stolen bases between Class A and Double-A last year.
"Billy is not the focal point here," Baker said. "The focal point is us to win the division and hopefully on to the World Series. We hope that he can help us in some small or large way."
St. Louis will try to bounce back behind highly-touted rookie Michael Wacha (2-0, 3.78), who will be recalled for the third time after briefly getting sent down to Double-A.
Set to make his fifth big league start and first since Aug. 10, Wacha earned another shot in the rotation after striking out a season-high seven over four scoreless innings of relief Wednesday.
"The way he threw the ball the other day -- it was not like we were doing tryout camp -- but he made it very obvious that he's the guy we want to see out there," Matheny told MLB's official website. "He looked great."
While the 22-year-old right-hander was tagged for six runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings in a 7-6, 14-inning loss to Arizona on June 4, he has gone 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in his other three starts while holding opponents to a .190 average.
Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran is uncertain to be available after missing the last two games with a sore back. Molina is listed as day-to-day after exiting Monday's loss with a sore left wrist.