Pittsburgh Pirates (60-44, 27-28 away) @ Cincinnati Reds (64-41, 34-19 home)
PIT Wandy Rodriguez (7-9, 3.82 ERA) vs Mat Latos (9-3, 4.17 ERA)
A showdown in Cincinnati tonight that starts the Pirates biggest series in at least 15 years. The Pirates who have won 11 of 16 games, trail the Cincinnati Reds by 3.5 games, baseballs hottest team winning 20 of their last 23 games, including 13 of their past 14.
The Reds have done it without their best player Joey Votto who is regarded by some as the best player in the National League. Cincinnati has won 14 of 17 games without Votto who is recovering from a knee injury.
The Pirates come into tonight’s game healthy, while the Reds will be without Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce tonight. Votto and Phillips are out with injuries, while Bruce a career .069 hitter vs Wandy Rodriguez will sit tonight.
This is so big of a series for the Pirates that manager Clint Hurdle yesterday decided to move ace A.J. Burnett up in the rotation so he could start Sunday, the final game of the series, pushing Erik Bedard back a day.
Tonight’s pitching matchup features Wandy Rodriguez (7-9, 3.82 ERA) vs Mat Latos (9-3, 4.17 ERA). Rodriguez will make his second start for the Pirates as he looks to set the tone in the series. Rodriguez in his Pirates debut last Saturday, allowed three runs and walked a season-high five batters in six innings of work in the Pirates 4-3 victory. Rodriguez is 1-1 with a 6.35 ERA in three starts vs Reds this season. Wandy faced Cincinnati just two weeks ago on July 23, allowing seven hits and three runs in six innings. Meanwhile, Latos has been excellent in his career vs Pirates, going 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four career starts vs Pittsburgh. Latos fanned 11 Pirate batters in the Reds 5-0 shutout victory on May 6.
The final two games of the series feature PIT James McDonald (10-5, 3.38 ERA) vs CIN Mike Leake (4.44 ERA) on Saturday and PIT A.J. Burnett (13-3, 3.27 ERA) vs CIN Homer Bailey (9-6, 3.85 ERA) on Sunday
PIRATES LINEUP FOR 8/3/12
1. Starling Marte (.250 – 2 HR – 4 RBI), LF
Notes: Marte will bat leadoff for the 8th straight game. He homered in Wednesday’s win, going 1-5, but has yet to draw walk through seven Major League games. Marte is batting .316 in his last four games.
2. Travis Snider (.267 – 3 HR – 8 RBI), RF
Notes: Snider is 3-9 with a walk and no extra base hits in two games with the Pirates.
3. Andrew McCutchen (.373 – 22 HR – 66 RBI), CF
Notes: McCutchen has struggled against the Reds this season, hitting .231 with a home run, 3 RBIs in 26 at-bats.
4. Garrett Jones (.272 – 16 HR – 52 RBI), 1B
Notes: Jones is hitting .269 with 3 RBIs in 26 at-bats against Reds this season
5. Neil Walker (.291 – 11 HR – 55 RBI), 2B
Notes: Walker has hits in seven of eight games and is batting .314 with 2 Home runs and 7 RBIs in 35 at-bats against Reds this season
6. Pedro Alvarez (.235 – 21 HR – 58 RBI), 3B
Notes: Alvarez has not homered in his last 12 games but is 7 for his last 21 at the plate.
7. Rod Barajas (.203 – 8 HR – 20 RBI), C
Notes: Barajas gets the start over the hot hitting Michael McKenry. Barajas is 1-20 in his last seven games.
8. Clint Barmes (.208 – 5 HR – 28 RBI), SS
Notes: Barmes is hitting .217 against the Reds this season
9. Wandy Rodriguez, P
NL CENTRAL STANDINGS
1. Cincinnati Reds (64-41)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (60-44, 3.5 GB)
3. St Louis Cardinals (56-49, 8 GB)
4. Milwaukee Brewers (48-56, 15.5 GB)
5. Chicago Cubs (43-60, 20 GB)
6. Houston Astros (35-71, 29.5 GB)