Lefty Fernando Abad makes the second start of his brief big-league career tonight when the Houston Astros host the Cincinnati Reds in the first game of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The 26-year-old Dominican reached the majors with Houston in 2010 with 22 relief appearances and followed up with 29 more last season while combining to go 1-5 with 13 holds and a blown save for the Astros.
He opened 2012 with 30 straight bullpen outings, but transitioned to starting on Aug. 25 with a four-inning outing at New York that ended in a 3-1 loss to the Mets.
Abad allowed four hits and a run while walking four and striking out two in the outing, which actually dropped his season's earned run average from 3.86 to 3.62.
His two most recent relief outings were against the Reds on July 23 and 25, when he allowed three hits and no runs in 1 1/3 innings with no walks and two strikeouts.
Abad's lone career major-league win came against Cincinnati on April 7, 2011 after he gave up a hit in 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for a 3-2 triumph.
Right-hander Mike Leake faces the Astros for the 11th time in his career for the Reds with a chance to improve on a 4-4 mark and 3.86 ERA.
He last faced the Astros July 24 in Houston and emerged with a 4-2 victory with an eight-inning effort that saw him surrender seven hits and two runs with a walk and six strikeouts.
He's won two and lost two since then in six starts, including an 8-2 defeat of St. Louis in his most recent start on Aug. 25.
In 11 road outings this year, Leake is 3-4 with a 3.80 ERA.
On Thursday in Houston, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence each drove in two runs as the San Francisco Giants took an 8-4 win over the Astros to cap a three- game sweep.
Matt Dominguez finished a homer short of the cycle and scored a run while Tyler Greene hit a solo homer for the Astros, who are mired in a slump that has seen them drop 12 of their last 13 games.
Jordan Lyles was charged with three runs on seven hits in just five innings of work for Houston. Fernando Rodriguez (1-9) gave up three runs in an inning of work to take the loss.
On Wednesday in Arizona, Chris Heisey hit two home runs and knocked in three and the Reds beat the Diamondbacks 6-2 to complete a three-game sweep.
The Reds moved a season-high 28 games over .500 and lead the majors with an 80-52 record. They scored all six of their runs on homers.
Heisey tied the game with a two-run homer in the seventh inning and had a solo blast in the eighth. Dioner Navarro's solo homer in the seventh gave the Reds the lead and Brandon Phillips hit a two-run blast in the following frame.
Mat Latos (11-4) earned the win in seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks and striking out seven. He had been 0-1 in his previous four starts. Latos also had two singles.
The Reds won seven of the first nine games between the teams in 2012, including a sweep of a three-game series in Houston from July 23-25. The Reds won the 2011 season series, nine games to six.