The Pittsburgh Pirates have come along at just the right time for the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds, who have won 12 of 17 and have moved to a season-high nine games over .500 (60-51), will attempt to complete a four-game series sweep when they host the Pirates in the finale on Sunday afternoon.
The Pirates have lost 14 of 19 and have dropped eight of their nine games against Cincinnati this season.
Cincinnati lost four straight games after the All-Star break and on July 20 stood 6 1/2 games behind National League Central-leading Milwaukee. The Reds have made up only a half-game in the division standings because the Brewers have matched them just about win for win, but Cincinnati has moved from five games out of the second wild card to 2 1/2 entering play Sunday.
The rejuvenated Reds’ lineup has been bolstered in the past three days by the return of Nick Castellanos (broken wrist) and Mike Moustakas (right foot). Castellanos homered in Saturday’s 11-3 win, and Moustakas had three doubles in Friday’s 10-0 victory.
“(We are) watching this group of guys slowly turn into a team and buy into one theme and one goal, which is to put Cincinnati into the postseason, and deep into the postseason,” Castellanos said Saturday. “It’s a process, and we’ve had some ups and we’ve had some downs and right now, we’re playing good baseball.
“Most importantly, we’re having fun. We’re pulling for one another, and I think guys are really getting comfortable with their role in a Reds jersey right now.”
The first three games have been dominated by the Reds, reflected by a combined 28-7 score, three homers in each game and double-digit run totals on Friday and Saturday.
“We really walked into Castellanos and Moustakas coming back in the same series,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “They’re built to swing the bats, and they’re built for this ballpark, and I think they’re showing that.”
Jesse Winker drove in six runs Saturday, matching his career high of June 6 when he had three home runs and six RBIs at St. Louis. Joey Votto tied Winker for the team lead in home runs with his 23rd on Saturday.
The pitcher charged with trying to slow the Reds on Sunday is 23-year-old right-hander Bryse Wilson (2-4, 4.42 ERA), who will make his second start with the Pirates in the finale of the seven-game trip. In his Pirates debut last Monday, he allowed one run on two hits in five innings but lost a 6-2 decision in Milwaukee.
Wilson, acquired from Atlanta with pitcher Ricky DeVito for Richard Rodriguez on July 30, will make his first career appearance against Cincinnati.
The Reds will counter with right-hander Tyler Mahle (8-3, 3.86), who was robbed of his ninth win last Tuesday when Heath Hembree allowed a three-run homer in the ninth inning of a 7-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The Reds have been the victim of a save eight times this season when Mahle has been on the mound. Mahle stood to win six of those games.
Mahle is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA against the Pirates this season, allowing four hits and one run over 5 1/3 innings in a 14-1 win over the Pirates on May 10. He is 2-3 with a 3.58 ERA in seven career starts against Pittsburgh.
–Field Level Media
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