The Cincinnati Reds aim to continue their winning ways at home while the Washington Nationals seek to end their dismal start to their road trip when the teams meet Friday in the second of a four-game series.
The Reds are in the midst of a stretch in which they play 15 of 17 at home. They have won five of their first eight home games in that run.
The Nationals, coming off an 8-1 defeat on Thursday, have lost the first four games of their 10-game road trip by a combined 36-6 score.
Being back home at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park paid immediate dividends for Joey Votto.
On Tuesday night in Boston, the veteran Reds slugger had to settle for two doubles on balls that hit the top of the wall and bounced back into play.
He didn’t miss against Washington starter Joan Adon in the first inning on Thursday, drilling his third homer of the year halfway up the sun deck in right field for a 3-0 Reds lead. Votto has been committing to hitting to the bigger parts of the field instead of trying to pull the ball as much.
“I feel like my swing is in a much better place relative to the beginning of the season,” Votto said. “I’ve said it before: Direction is a big part of a successful version of me as a hitter. I spent too much time down the right-field line. Not enough time in the center of the field and either gap.”
After missing the first two months of the season with a sore pitching shoulder, Mike Minor will make his first start with the Reds on Friday.
The left-hander, acquired from the Kansas City Royals in March for left-hander Amir Garrett, went 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in four rehab starts with Triple-A Louisville last month.
In his latest outing, on May 27, Minor allowed one run and three hits over six innings, with no walks and nine strikeouts. He threw 79 pitches.
Minor is set to make his 12th career start against the Nationals. He is 3-3 with a 4.47 ERA in the previous 11 outings, all while pitching for the Atlanta Braves.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Josiah Gray (5-4, 5.08), who will be facing the team that drafted him for the first time. Gray was selected by the Reds in the second round of the 2018 draft.
The Reds traded him, along with Jeter Downs and Homer Bailey, to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Dec. 21, 2018, in a deal for Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer. He moved to the Nationals last July 30 in the trade that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, Washington ace Stephen Strasburg continues his recovery from thoracic outlet injury. He is scheduled to make a rehab start on Friday for Triple-A Rochester.
“He’s a healthy player just getting stretched out and ready to pitch,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “So, when that time happens, he’ll pitch for us. But until he’s stretched out and prepared to pitch in the big leagues, we’re going to take it one start at a time.”
Strasburg already has made two starts for Class-A Fredericksburg and has been cleared for 80-85 pitches over six innings on Friday. The goal is to reach 90 pitches before he can rejoin the Nationals and bolster their rotation.
“It’s exciting and it’s a good thing for the organization,” Rizzo said. “When he’s pitching, he’s as good as anybody in baseball.”
–Field Level Media