National League Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, June 1st (All times Eastern)
Cincinnati Reds (28-22) at Houston Astros (22-29), 8:05 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Cincinnati - Mike Leake (1-5, 5.47) Houston - J.A. Happ (4-4, 4.37)
(Sports Network) - The first-place Cincinnati Reds seek to regain lost momentum tonight when they visit Minute Maid Park for the first of three weekend games with the host Houston Astros.
The Reds hadn't lost a series since April before pulling into Pittsburgh and dropping two of three earlier this week to the Pirates, including a 2-1 decision on Wednesday in which veteran A.J. Burnett stymied them on just two hits over seven innings.
Cincinnati leads the National League's Central Division by 1 1/2 games over defending World Series champion St. Louis, which opens a series tonight in New York against the Mets.
The Astros, who dropped four in a row in Colorado and have lost six straight overall, are on the fringe of contention in fifth place - 6 1/2 games in back of the Reds.
Houston turns to lefty J.A. Happ to make the start while seeking to get back to the success that saw him win two straight outings on May 17 and 22 against Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs.
Happ allowed a single run on 12 hits in 12 innings of those wins, but dropped a 5-1 decision at Los Angeles against the Dodgers in his last start on May 27 after allowing three runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings.
He's 1-1 in four career meetings with the Reds with a 6.17 earned run average across 23 1/3 innings, in which he's allowed 16 runs on 24 hits and nine walks.
All four of Happ's wins in 2012 have come in Houston, where he's 4-2 in six starts and has held opposing batters to a .273 average.
The Reds counter with righty Mike Leake, who's toiled all season in an unsuccessful effort to find consistency.
The 24-year-old entered the season after a career-best 12 wins in 29 appearances last season, but immediately stumbled from the gate with losses in his initial five decisions.
He finally broke through with eight innings of one-run ball for a 4-1 defeat of the Atlanta Braves on May 21, but was shelled for nine hits and three runs in just 3 2/3 innings five days later against Colorado, getting a no-decision in a game the Reds ultimately won, 10-3.
Overall, in 49 1/3 innings, he's given up 35 runs on 59 hits.
Leake dropped a 6-4 decision to the Astros in Cincinnati on April 21 while giving up three earned runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.
On Thursday in Colorado, Carlos Gonzalez helped the Rockies with a three-run home run in a 11-5 win for the Astros.
J.D. Martinez hit a solo home run while Jose Altuve added three hits and an RBI for the Astros.
Bud Norris (5-2) was torched for nine runs in just 1 2/3 innings as he lost for the first time since April 24. He was 4-0 with a 1.17 earned run average in May coming into the game.
On Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart hit a double to start the night, but Burnett allowed almost nothing after that in the Pirates' win in the rubber match of a three-game series.
Burnett (4-2) went seven strong innings, allowing only two hits and one unearned run. After Cozart's leadoff double, the next Reds hit came from Chris Heisey to leadoff the seventh inning.
"We couldn't muster back-to-back hits," Reds Manager Dusty Baker said. "We really couldn't have, really, any hits."
Johnny Cueto (5-3) kept Cincinnati in front for most of the night, allowing only two runs on five hits in seven innings.
"He's matched up with a bunch of real good pitchers," Baker said. "He certainly could have had a chance to win that."
Heisey and Joey Votto delivered back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth, but Joel Hanrahan struck out Miguel Cairo and Ryan Hanigan to close the door on his 13th save of the year.
The Reds took two of three over the Astros at home in late April.
06/01 10:50:51 ET