The Cincinnati Reds say they have reached a point where it’s time to clamp down, and they will get a double shot at showing that Friday when they play two games against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.
At least that’s the promise of the Reds’ longest-tenured player, first baseman Joey Votto, who expects Cincinnati to make a real run at the postseason over the final weeks of the regular season.
“The time is, for sure, running out,” Votto told reporters recently.
“We’re going put our foot down. We’re going to go all the way in, push this to the very last out of the season. We’re a competitive team. We’re going to be that all the way to the end. I’m looking forward to the next stretch.”
Votto isn’t all talk. After struggling at the plate, including an 0-for-18 stretch, and being benched for three games last week, he adjusted his batting stance. Since being back in the lineup, has a six-game hitting streak, going 9-for-20 with three homers to up his batting average from .191 to .239.
In Cincinnati’s most recent game, Wednesday against St. Louis, Votto produced a walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning.
It just helped reaffirm manager David Bell’s faith in the veteran.
“He’s in a really good place as far as his approach to the plate,” Bell said.
While Cincinnati was off Thursday, the Pirates notched a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs to avoid a series sweep at home.
With their record, the Pirates don’t have a lot of cause to join the Reds in realistically aiming for a playoff spot, but they can play the spoiler in the four-game series that starts Friday.
Pittsburgh has homered in a season-high seven straight games, including Bryan Reynolds’ three-run shot Thursday.
In the opening game Friday, both starters will be looking for their first win of the season as Cincinnati right-hander Luis Castillo (0-5, 4.10 ERA) faces off against Pittsburgh left-hander Steven Brault (0-1, 4.00).
Brault’s trouble winning has more to do with not being given five innings than it does with his performance. He has given up four earned runs over his six starts — all four coming in the same game — but he has pitched a total of 18 innings in those starts.
He gave just one unearned run in three innings Sunday in Milwaukee.
Brault is 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA in 10 career games, four of them starts, against the Reds.
Castillo has taken the loss in each of his last three starts, giving up 11 runs (seven earned) and 15 hits in 14 1/3 innings.
Against Pittsburgh, Castillo is 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA in eight career starts.
In the second game Friday, the Reds are scheduled to go with right-hander Trevor Bauer (3-2, 2.13) against Pittsburgh right-hander Cody Ponce (1-1, 2.00).
Bauer has followed a three-start winning streak with two straight losses. Seven of the nine runs and four of the six homers he has allowed this season have come in those two losses.
Against the Pirates, Bauer is 2-1 with a 4.96 ERA in three career starts.
Ponce will be facing Cincinnati for the first time. The rookie got his first win in a similar situation, starting the second game of doubleheader on Aug. 27 at St. Louis. He pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings.
“He stepped up and pitched his butt off,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.
–Field Level Media