Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker knew the team's current stretch would be one of its toughest, but his club still has a firm hold on the NL Central lead despite a bit of a slump.
The Arizona Diamondbacks' current skid may be a little more troubling for their postseason hopes.Cincinnati sends Bronson Arroyo to the mound when it visits Arizona for the opener of a three-game series Monday night.By the time the Reds complete the upcoming series, they'll have played 17 games in 16 days -- a stretch during which they're currently 8-6 following Sunday's 8-2 loss to St. Louis.Cincinnati (77-52), though, has a six-game lead over the Cardinals in the Central despite losing three of its last four."This is a tough stretch for us. We knew it'd be tough," Baker said."We've got to push and push the next three days. These are the dog days. We've got to finish strong in August."The Reds hope to get another solid outing out of Arroyo, who has won three consecutive starts.Arroyo (10-7, 3.87 ERA) improved to 6-1 with a 3.50 ERA in his last seven outings after giving up two runs and three hits in eight innings of Wednesday's 3-2 win over Philadelphia."I had good stuff," Arroyo said. "I was hitting my spots on both sides of the plate. It's one of the best games I've thrown."His current hot stretch began after he gave up five runs and eight hits in a season-low three innings of a 5-3 loss to Arizona on July 16 as the teams split a four-game series. Miguel Montero homered off him in that contest and is 8 for 15 with three home runs lifetime against the right-hander.Arroyo had gone 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his previous four starts versus the Diamondbacks, who are in danger of falling farther back in the postseason race unless they can turn things around quickly.Arizona (64-64) has lost three straight and five of seven after being swept at home by San Diego, falling 5-4 in Sunday's finale. The Diamondbacks, who also have dropped 10 of 14 at home and are chasing San Francisco in the NL West, are 6 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card spot."When you get into streaks like this, sometimes it doesn't seem fair," manager Kirk Gibson said. "There (is) no rhyme or reason, but it is the way it worked out for us."Diamondbacks starting pitchers have a 7.12 ERA over their last seven games, and they traded left-hander Joe Saunders to Baltimore for reliever Matt Lindstrom on Sunday.One reason that mark isn't even worse is because of a solid performance from Tyler Skaggs, who will take the hill Monday.Skaggs (1-0, 2.70) had an impressive major league debut Wednesday, allowing two runs and three hits in 6 2/3 innings of a 3-2 win over Miami.Gibson said the left-hander will see plenty more action this season to help prepare him for the future."We're going to keep Tyler in the rotation, just give him an exposure to the situation we are in, in a pennant race, that'll do him well for next year as well," Gibson told the team's official website.The Reds announced Sunday that star first baseman Joey Votto, who hasn't played since July 15 after injuring his left knee, will begin a rehab assignment with Single-A Dayton on Tuesday.
Entering Sunday, Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero is hitting much better this season against right-handed pitching with a .311 average and 50 RBIs compared to only .214 and 23 RBIs against lefties. On Monday, Montero will face Reds righty Bronson Arroyo, against whom he is 8-for-15 in his career with 3 homers and 7 RBIs.