The Cincinnati Reds hope Thursday's series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks goes a lot smoother than the previous game when the two playoff-hungry clubs close a four-game set at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds took a 2-1 edge in this series with Wednesday's 10-7 win and nearly squandered an 8-0 lead, allowing the Diamondbacks to battle back with seven runs to close the gap. Todd Frazier and Brandon Phillips each had RBI hits in the eighth inning to give Cincinnati some breathing room over the D'backs in the wild card race at six games.
Cincinnati, which sits atop the wild card standings with St. Louis and is just 2 1/2 games off the pace in the NL Central, received a big game from Shin-Soo Choo and four players finished with multiple hits. Choo led the bunch with four, including a home run, drove in three runs and scored three times. Devin Mesoraco was 2-for-4 with two runs batted in.
Reds starter Mike Leake went six innings, yielding four runs on six hits for the win, and closer Aroldis Chapman struck out two over two scoreless innings to pick up his 32nd save.
"It was a tough one," Leake said. "Being up 8-0 and then ending up being a stressful game, it stinks. But at least we came out ahead."
Cincinnati, owners of a 9-4 record in a stretch of 20 straight days, has won 11 of its last 15 games and improved to 39-21 at home this season. The Milwaukee Brewers are set to visit the Queen City this weekend.
Mat Latos had his unbeaten streak come to an end his last time out and will take the mound Thursday afternoon for the Reds. Latos was 4-0 with a 1.32 earned run average in his previous five starts and suffered a hard-luck loss Saturday in a 2-0 loss at Milwaukee, where he allowed both runs in seven innings.
Latos is 12-4 with a 3.02 ERA in 25 starts and defeated the Diamondbacks with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball and 13 strikeouts in a 4-2 win on June 23. The right-hander, who is 7-1 in 10 home starts, is 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA in seven career starts against Arizona.
Arizona is fighting for a playoff spot in the National League and can pretty much give up on the NL West because the Los Angeles Dodgers have an 8 1/2-game lead.
The D'backs entered Wednesday's game having won six of eight games and almost pulled off a huge comeback in the third portion of this series. Jason Kubel drove in two runs and Adam Eaton hit a two-run homer during a four-run fifth inning to trim Cincinnati's lead to 8-4. Martin Prado delivered an RBI single in the seventh and Gerardo Parra led off a two-run eighth inning with a solo shot to shave the Reds' lead to one run.
Chapman, though, ended the Arizona fury with two strong innings of relief.
"They played their tails off," D'backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "They did a heck of a job. They had a terrible start. They played great, I've got no complaints about it at all."
Brandon McCarthy was dealt the loss for surrendering seven runs and eight hits over 2 1/3 innings.
"I couldn't get anything down in the zone for whatever reason," McCarthy said. "I really think mechanically I just got some issues I have to iron out."
Arizona is 3-3 on a 10-game road trip along the east coast and will visit Philadelphia for three games this weekend.
Taking the mound for the D'backs Thursday will be Trevor Cahill. Cahill came off the disabled list for Saturday's 15-5 pounding of the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park and allowed four runs in five innings. Cahill was 0-6 with a 7.91 earned run average in his previous eight starts.
The right-hander, who is 4-10 with a 4.78 ERA in 18 starts overall, has never faced the Reds. Cahill will make his fourth straight start on the road, where he owns a 3-6 record and a 5.60 ERA.
Arizona won two of three versus the Reds from June 21-23 at Chase Field.