If the Cincinnati Reds go on to secure a playoff berth and accomplish things this postseason, they may have the Miami Marlins to thank for it.
The Reds were freefalling after the All-Star break until a trip to Miami last week, and they'll try to continue the subsequent momentum on Friday night when the teams meet to begin a three-game weekend series at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati had lost 10 of 12 games after the break until arriving in Miami and beginning a stretch that's since seen the club win six of eight. The Reds defeated the Marlins in three of four games in South Florida while outscoring them, 16-8.
The Reds have beaten Miami in 10 of their last 12 meetings overall, and the Marlins have won just six times in their last 25 visits to Cincinnati. In the last 12 games with Miami, the Reds have averaged better than five runs per game.
Right-hander Mike Leake takes the mound for the hosts after topping Miami, 7-3, on Sunday with six innings of one-run work. He's allowed only the one run on eight hits in his last two starts, comprising 13 2/3 innings.
Heading into the series, the Reds scored 21 runs while winning the final three games of a four-game set with the cross-state Cleveland Indians.
Miami counters with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who is winless in his last seven starts, though he was effective while allowing just one run and two hits in seven innings against the Reds on Saturday, in a game the Marlins won, 2-1, in 10 innings.
In three prior starts, he'd been rocked for 18 runs and 21 hits in 16 1/3 innings.
On Thursday in Pittsburgh, Gregory Polanco drove in four runs and Edinson Volquez tossed seven strong innings to lead the Pirates to a 7-2 victory over the Marlins in the rubber match of a three-game set at PNC Park. Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer in the ninth inning for Miami.
Starter Brian Flynn (0-1) was tagged with the loss after giving up five runs on eight hits over four-plus innings. Miami reliever Dan Jennings recorded one out in the seventh before Jordy Mercer's liner hit him in the side of the head and knocked him to the ground before it was caught by shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Jennings was taken off the field in a cart.
In Cincinnati, Homer Bailey threw seven shutout innings for his first win in over a month and the Reds beat the Indians, 4-0. The Reds won the last three games of the four-game series, including the final two at home, to capture the Ohio Cup for the first time since 2010.
Bailey (9-5) remained in the game after taking a line drive off the side of his head in the fifth inning and finished with eight strikeouts while giving up just four hits and a walk. It was the first win for Bailey in his last six starts since he shut out the Giants in San Francisco on June 29.