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Pirates welcome rival Reds to PNC Park

A pair of midseason National League Central contenders get game series when the host Pittsburgh Pirates entertain the defending division champion Cincinnati Reds tonight at PNC Park.

Both teams held the lead in the Central earlier this season and were still on the fringes of contention after the All-Star break, but have since collapsed while the first-place Milwaukee Brewers have opened up leads of 12 1/2 games on the Reds and 13 1/2 on the Pirates.

Milwaukee leads second-place St. Louis by 6 1/2 games.

The Reds come home after dropping two of three in Washington, including the series finale Thursday when Jesus Flores' first home run of the season supported a gem by Jordan Zimmermann as the Nationals won, 3-1.

Bronson Arroyo (7-10) allowed three runs on seven hits over six innings. He walked two and struck out three and has not recorded a win since June 25.

Brandon Phillips knocked in the lone run for the Reds, who stranded 10 and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

On Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Allen Craig finished 4-for-5 with two home runs and three RBI, as St. Louis avoided a sweep with a 7-2 victory over the Pirates in the finale of a three-game series.

Jose Tabata's two-run shot was the lone offense for the Pirates, who have lost four of six despite winning the set.

Paul Maholm (6-14) was touched in defeat for three runs on eight hits over five full frames.

Cincinnati starts Texas-born Homer Bailey, who's 4-1 in six starts since opening the season at 3-4.

The former first-round draft pick - seventh overall in 2004 - is unbeaten in his career against the Pirates, holding a 5-0 record after six starts with a sterling 1.52 earned run average across 47 1/3 innings.

He was a 13-1 winner over San Diego in his most recent start on Aug. 13, allowing a run on six hits in seven innings while lowering his 2011 ERA to 4.43.

The Reds are 4-6 in Bailey's last 10 starts.

The Pirates counter with early-season ace Kevin Correia, who's dropped three straight decisions and five of six since getting to 11-6 in July 3.

The Californian, who'll turn 31 on Aug. 24, last won on July 28 in Atlanta, where he allowed an earned run on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 5-2 triumph.

In losses since to the Chicago Cubs, San Diego and Milwaukee, he's surrendered 22 hits and 13 runs in 14 1/3 innings.

Lifetime against the Reds, Correia is 7-1 over 14 appearances - nine starts - with a 4.24 ERA in 57 1/3 innings.

The Pirates own a sizeable 7-2 advantage in the season series between these clubs.