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Friday, June 28, 2013
W2W4: Rangers-Reds

By Todd Wills

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The schedule doesn't let up as the Rangers return home to start a nine-game homestand Friday night.

First up, the pitching-rich Cincinnati Reds, who will test the Rangers with three talented starters -- Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Mat Latos.

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Another winning opponent: The Reds would be leading three of baseball's divisions if they weren't in the National League Central. They enter Friday with a 45-34 record and trail Pittsburgh and St. Louis by 3 1/2 games. Only five teams in baseball have a better record than the Reds, who are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Cincinnati is 19-20 on the road this season.

Strong starters: Cueto, Leake and Latos have a combined record of 18-5 with a 2.91 ERA. Yes, the Rangers have a difficult test in front of them. The Reds as a team have a 3.52 ERA, fifth best in the majors. The Rangers' 3.67 team ERA is seventh best. Cueto (4-1, 3.21), who starts Friday against Martin Perez, comes off of his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings at Arizona. Leake (7-1, 2.61) and Latos (7-1, 3.05) have both been on terrific roles.

Bruce is producing: Reds right fielder Jay Bruce, who hails from Beaumont, Texas, is in position to have one of the best seasons in Reds franchise history. He is on pace to produce 50 doubles, 37 home runs and 114 RBIs. Only 17 players in major league history have produced seasons of at least 50 doubles, 35 homers and 100 RBIs, including the Red's Frank Robinson in 1962. Bruce is tied for 10th in the majors with 18 home runs. He is fourth in doubles with 24. And he's tied for 11th with 55 RBIs.

Cruz hot, too: The Rangers' Nelson Cruz is right there with Bruce, making this a marquee matchup of right fielders. Cruz is tied for sixth in baseball with 20 home runs and is ninth in RBIs with 57. Cruz and Bruce both have a .525 slugging percentage, which puts them in the top 20 in the big leagues.

Baker still winning: Reds manager Dusty Baker enters Friday's game as the 16th winningest manager in major league history. Baker has won 1,626 games, second-most among active managers (Detroit's Jim Leyland has 1,718 wins, ranking 15th all-time). Nine of the 14 winningest managers are in baseball's Hall of Fame. Baker's teams have won five division titles in his 20 years as a skipper. He is one of six managers to win division titles with three different teams.