Fresh off an opening sweep, the Cincinnati Reds are relying on timely hitting and solid pitching to keep things rolling against the defending Central Division champions.
Former St. Louis right-hander Jason Marquis makes his first start in 21 months Friday night when he takes the hill for the Reds against the visiting Cardinals.
The Reds swept their opening three-game home set against Pittsburgh - which earned a wild card last season - for their best start since opening 5-0 in 2011.
Joey Votto continued his strong start after missing most of last season, delivering his first homer since May 10 in Thursday's 3-2 victory. Todd Frazier led off the ninth inning with a double before later scoring the winning run on an error. Votto went 5 for 14 with four RBIs in the series and Frazier was 4 for 13 with two homers and four RBIs.
"Well, you play 162 and see where you are when the dust settles," said manager Bryan Price, whose starting pitchers have posted a 2.41 ERA. "Three games really doesn't suggest anything."
Marquis had a 3.46 ERA in 26 innings during spring training to win a spot in the rotation after the Reds signed him to a minor-league contract in January. He'll get a chance to show what he can do with Homer Bailey on the disabled list.
The veteran is 121-114 with a 4.56 ERA in 14 seasons, though he never made it to the majors with Philadelphia last season while coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2013.
Marquis, who made seven playoff appearances with the Cardinals from 2004-06, hasn't started since July 19, 2013, when he allowed six runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 9-6 loss at St. Louis. He's 6-3 with a 4.15 mark in 11 career meetings.
Mark Reynolds may get a start since he's 5 for 16 with a home run and three RBIs lifetime versus Marquis.
St. Louis (1-1) will try to get its offense on track after totaling three runs while leaving 17 runners on base in a season-opening split against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Matt Adams, Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong have gone a combined 0 for 18.
Manager Mike Matheny said the Cardinals just need to get some at-bats following the rain-shortened opening series.
"I think you just expect that you can get about anything at this time of the year in this part of the country and even back home," he told MLB's official website. "We'll go through it and realize that better days are ahead."
John Lackey (14-10, 3.82 ERA in 2014) will try to give the Cardinals a third straight solid outing in his season debut. He went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts last season after arriving in a trade from Boston.
The right-hander has pitched well in four career outings against the Reds, going 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA after limiting them to one run over seven-plus innings in a 2-1 home win last September.
Lackey would like to keep Billy Hamilton off the bases after he went 6 for 6 in stolen base attempts versus Pittsburgh. Marlon Byrd has batted .370 with two homers and eight RBIs in 27 career at-bats against him.
The Cardinals took 12 of 19 meetings last season, but they've dropped the last three in Cincinnati.