Pirates And Reds Collide In Cincinnati

By: Willie Bee | Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wandy Rodriguez earned his only experience in a playoff race as a rookie in 2005 when he went 10-10 for the Houston Astros in their only NL Championship season.

Friday night, Wandy gets his first taste of what it's like to pitch in a pennant race since then as he gets the nod for his new club the Pittsburgh Pirates when they open a critical series in Cincinnati against the Reds.  Mat Latos will oppose Rodriguez in the 7:10 p.m. (ET) start, and the Reds were sent out on a -150 price with an 8-run total.

The Pirates enjoyed a day off Thursday while the Reds were finishing up their home series with a matinee affair against the Padres.  Cincinnati opened play with a 3-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central, a cushion that could increase or decrease by half a game depending on Thursday's outcome which found the Reds $2.00 favorites behind ace Johnny Cueto.

This weekend will mark the fourth series meeting of 2012 between the clubs, with the Pirates winning two of the previous three sets to stake themselves to a 5-4 advantage on the year.  The most recent clash was in Cincinnati where the Bucs won twice and the 'over' cashed all three games.

Nearly 20 years of losing baseball appears to be coming to an end in Pittsburgh; whether or not that means the Bucs will make it back to the postseason for the first time since 1992 remains to be seen, but they have taken a few steps with recent deadline acquisitions in hopes of playing on in October.  Rodriguez, along with a teammate from that 2005 Houston squad, reliever Chad Qualls, are two of the pick-ups.  Pittsburgh also beefed up the offense by acquiring outfielder Travis Snider from Toronto and first baseman Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins.

Rodriguez's first start for the Pirates ironically came against the Astros last Saturday in Houston.  Nerves from facing his former teammates so quickly may have played into it, but the Dominican southpaw was uncharacteristically wild with a season-high five walks in six innings, allowing all three Houston runs in six innings.  He left the game tied and Pittsburgh ultimately got a 4-3 dubya laying 170 chalk in the contest.

More irony is his final start for the Astros came at home to the Reds on July 23 when he faced Latos.  In fact, he and Latos have hooked up twice this season, both games taking place in Houston and both won by Cincinnati.  The Reds took Rodriguez to the woodshed in one of those games, hammering four long balls en route to a 12-9 victory.  Rodriguez's only outing in Cincinnati this season was a winning performance in late April (6 IP, 2 ER).

While Latos will be opposing Rodriguez for a third time in 2012, it will be just his second appearance this year against the Pirates.  He tossed six shutout frames in Pittsburgh on May 6, allowing but two hits while striking out 11, to give him a perfect 3-0 record in four career starts vs. the Pirates (2.16 ERA).

Rodriguez won't have to face Cincinnati 1B Joey Votto who is on the disabled list following minor knee surgery, and who has done very well in past confrontations.  However, Wandy will have to face Ryan Ludwick who has batted .317 in 41 previous at bats vs. the lefty, and has been heating up since the two faced off in Houston on July 23.  Including that game, Ludwick was hitting .482 in eight tilts with four home runs and 15 RBI before Thursday when he was not in the starting lineup.

Cincinnati could be without 2B Brandon Phillips on Friday due to a calf injury.  Keep an eye on the Don Best Pro Odds for updates before making your wagering decision.  Pittsburgh was not reporting any new injuries on their roster.

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