MLB Insiders: Cincinnati Reds

The Pirates open a two-game series in Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Right-hander Charlie Morton will be on the hill for the Bucs. The Reds will throw right-hander Bronson Arroyo.

The Cincinnati Reds are loving life these days at Great American Ball Park, where they've made a habit of coming from behind to win on their latest homestand.

There was nothing Cincinnati liked about its latest visit from Charlie Morton and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Reds try to win an eighth straight on the shores of the Ohio River on Wednesday night against the much-improved Morton, who went the distance as the Pirates took three of four in Cincinnati last month.

The Reds (25-17) have won 11 of 13 since slipping a game below .500, and the first five victories of their current homestand have been particularly entertaining.

Cincinnati has fallen behind by multiple runs in four of them, and had to dig deep to come back twice this week against the Cubs. But manager Dusty Baker's club did it both times, overcoming a 4-0 deficit to win 7-4 on Monday and taking advantage of four Chicago errors Tuesday to come from behind twice in a 7-5 victory in which all its runs were unearned.

Facing floundering Pittsburgh (18-23), which is looking to avoid a seventh straight loss, should be an easy way to push its home winning streak to eight for the first time since Aug. 31-Sept. 17, 2009, a stretch that included a four-game sweep of the Pirates.

The Reds didn't have nearly as much luck when Pittsburgh visited last month, however. The Pirates won three of four, including a 6-1 victory April 15 when Morton (4-1, 3.13 ERA) cruised to his second career complete game and came within a two-out, ninth-inning Jay Bruce homer of a shutout.

Morton should be anxious to get back out there. The right-hander has won consecutive outings for the first time in his career and doubled his 2010 win total thanks to a sinker that has him leading the majors in ground-ball percentage (77.4).

He'll need to hope the Pirates can provide the kind of support that led to 24 runs in Cincinnati last month rather than continuing to resemble the lineup that's hitting .195 with runners in scoring position over the past six games.

They had no problem hitting Bronson Arroyo (3-3, 3.78) in Morton's start last month, tagging the right-hander for five runs and nine hits - including homers by Neil Walker(notes) and Garrett Jones(notes).

Arroyo, who gave up four runs over six innings in Friday's 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Cardinals, has been one of the few Reds who hasn't had much fun at home lately. He's 2-0 with a 0.92 ERA in three roads starts, but 1-3 with a 5.64 ERA in five outings in Cincinnati.

Jonny Gomes was not in the lineup for the Reds' 7-5 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, but manager Dusty Baker still fielded a question about why he continues to play Gomes so much. Gomes is mired in a slump that has dropped his average to .188.

"Manager's decision," Baker said. "I know what's there. Jonny's not playing tonight. But he's playing tomorrow. A lot has to do with who is pitching against us, a lot has to do with ensuing games. We're going to need him to DH in the high-octane American League games we're going to have in Cleveland.

"Sometimes you go on how a guy's going now. Sometimes you go on matchup. Sometimes you go on a guy's history."

Gomes hit a two-run homer in Monday's game. It was his first home run since April 17 and his first RBI in May.

The Reds have continued to win with Gomes scuffling.

"It would be different if we were losing," Baker said. "If we can carry someone trying to get their act together while the teams is winning, that's what you've got to do."

NOTES, QUOTES

--CF Drew Stubbs had reached base at least twice in nine straight games entering Tuesday night, but that streak was snapped when he went 1-for-5. Stubbs came in hitting .327 with a .431 on-base percentage in May and was tied with teammate Joey Votto for the National League lead in runs with 32. "This is one of times I've felt really comfortable up there," Stubbs said. "Things seem like they're moving really slow. I'm seeing the ball well. I've been able to take more walks a lot more lately, and I've put pretty good swings on the ball when it's in the zone."

--3B Juan Francisco (strained left calf) was activated from the disabled list Tuesday and optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Francisco was already at Louisville on a rehab assignment.

--C Ramon Hernandez extended his hitting streak to 11 games. He is hitting .425 with four home runs and six RBI during the streak.

--RHP Edinson Volquez went six innings and allowed three runs on three hits. He walked one and struck out nine. All the damage was done on Carlos Pena's first-inning home run. Volquez has allowed 17 runs in the first innings of his nine starts.

--RHP Nick Masset pitched the ninth inning for his first save of the year. Closer Francisco Cordero had pitched in the previous four games.

BY THE NUMBERS: 30 -- Games the Reds have played in their own division, most in baseball. Houston, with 24, has the second most.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I sound like a broken record talking about defense. That's the one difference between our club and a lot of other clubs: We generally don't beat ourselves." -- Reds manager Dusty Baker

ROSTER REPORT
MEDICAL WATCH:

--LHP Aroldis Chapman (left shoulder inflammation) was placed on the disabled list May 16, but the Reds viewed it mainly as precautionary and didn't think he would need more than the 15 days before he's ready to pitch again.

--RHP Jared Burton (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 29. He suffered a setback in early April, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 18. He underwent arthroscopic surgery April 22, and the timetable for his return was unknown.


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