Dominican lefty Wandy Rodriguez aims for a fourth win in his last five starts tonight when the Pittsburgh Pirates visit Great American Ball Park to open a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds.
The Pirates enter the series third in the National League's Central Division, trailing the first-place Reds by 11 games. Pittsburgh has playoff hope remaining in the wild card race, however, and trails the No. 2 slot - now held by the St. Louis Cardinals - by 2 1/2 games.
A 33-year-old, Rodriguez was 7-9 in 21 starts with Houston to begin this season before a July trade to the Pirates. He lost his initial three appearances for the Pirates, but has since rebounded for three wins in four games - three starts - since Aug. 19.
He's tossed 13 straight scoreless innings in the last two starts while defeating St. Louis and Houston while allowing seven hits, walking four batters and striking out 10.
Rodriguez last faced the Reds on Aug. 3 in Cincinnati in his second Pittsburgh start and lost a 3-0 decision after seven innings of seven-hit ball.
In 27 career starts against them, he's 8-11 with a 4.39 earned run average.
The Reds send righty Mat Latos to the mound for a rematch with Rodriguez, whom he faced in the Aug. 3 game and defeated after allowing four hits and striking out five in 7 1/3 scoreless innings.
The 24-year-old Virginia native was in the midst of a three-start win streak with that victory, then for three no-decisions and a loss in a stretch that lasted from Aug. 8-24.
He's rebounded with consecutive defeats of Arizona and Philadelphia while allowing three runs on nine hits in 14 innings with five walks and 13 strikeouts.
In five career starts against the Pirates, Latos is 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA.
On Sunday in Pittsburgh, Alfonso Soriano crushed the go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning and the Chicago Cubs knocked off the Pirates, 4-2, in the finale of a three-game series.
Andrew McCutchen crushed a solo home run and Brock Holt went 3-for-5 with a run scored on a balk for the Pirates, who have lost seven of their last nine games.
Jason Grilli (1-6) took the loss after allowing Soriano's homer in the eighth.
In Cincinnati, Matt Dominguez hit a three-run homer to power the Houston Astros to a 5-1 win over the Reds in the rubber match of a three-game set.
National League Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto (17-8) fanned six for Cincinnati, but surrendered four runs on nine hits and a walk over four frames to drop back-to-back starts for the first time since the All-Star break for the Reds, who have lost five of their last eight games.
Jay Bruce tallied two hits, including an RBI triple, in defeat.
The teams split their first 12 games of 2012, a season after the Pirates won 10 of 15 meetings.