Slumping veteran Bronson Arroyo gets the call to protect the Cincinnati Reds' slim division lead today when they host the Detroit Tigers in game two of a three-game interleague series at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds enter with a two-game edge in the National League Central Division after winning Friday's opener in 10 innings, 6-5.
Pittsburgh defeated Kansas City last night and is alone in second place, a game up on defending World Series champion St. Louis, which fell out of a second-place tie with a Friday loss to Cleveland.
In the American League Central, the Tigers have been a springtime disappointment and sit third in the division -- six games in back of the front-running Chicago White Sox.
Detroit won the Central last season by 15 games over the Indians.
Meanwhile, Arroyo was 2-1 with a 2.75 earned run average through his initial six starts of 2012 after a 6-1 defeat of the Milwaukee Brewers on May 7.
He's 0-3 in five starts since, however, and has seen his ERA swell to 3.91.
In his last start, on June 3 at Houston, Arroyo allowed five runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 5-3 loss.
In the winless skid, he's given up 18 runs on 40 hits in 29 2/3 innings.
Arroyo is 2-1 in five starts against the Tigers and has allowed a .287 batting average.
He's opposed by Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who faces the Reds for the first time in his 212th major-league start.
Verlander began the season with five wins in his initial six decisions but has also slumped badly, not winning since a complete-game 6-0 blanking of the Pirates on May 18, when he allowed one hit, walked two and struck out 12.
In three starts since, all losses, he's pitched 20 1/3 innings, allowed 12 runs and 25 hits while his still-gaudy ERA has swelled more than half a run from 2.14 to 2.67.
Verlander, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young recipient, won a career-best 24 games last season while carrying a 2.40 ERA and allowing a paltry .192 opposition batting average in a career-high 251 innings.
On Friday, Wilson Valdez scored Miguel Cairo with a sacrifice bunt in the 10th inning, lifting the Reds to a 6-5 win over the Tigers.
Cairo opened the inning with a triple before Valdez pushed one up the first- base line. Prince Fielder's throw was late as Cairo slid around the tag at home to seal the win.
Delmon Young cracked a solo homer in the eighth to give Detroit a 5-4 lead, but Todd Frazier's pinch-hit double in the bottom half tied the game.
Frazier, who was a late scratch from the starting lineup with back spasms, ripped a two-bagger into the left-field corner to score Cairo, who singled to open the frame.
The interleague series is even at eight wins apiece, though the Tigers have won two of three games in four straight matchups (1999, 2000, 2001, 2006) since the Reds swept them in three straight in 1998.