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Reds, Rockies square off

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Colorado (22-15) at Cincinnati (15-18)

First pitch: Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET Line: Cincinnati -180, Colorado +170, Total: 7.5

The red-hot Rockies head to Great American Ball Park on Friday to begin a three-game series against the struggling Reds.

Colorado has been tearing it up lately, winning 15 of the past 21 games, including taking 3-of-4 against the Rangers (two home, two away) while outscoring them 29-10 in the four contests. But the Rockies' offense ground to a halt in Thursday's 5-0 loss. 3B Nolan Arenado (.322 BA) extended his hitting-streak to a franchise-best 28 games in the contest while SS Troy Tulowitzki (MLB-high .407 BA) is 14-for-25 with two homers, 9 RBI and 10 runs over seven games in May.

Cincinnati has been moving in the opposite direction, going 4-7 in its past 11 contests while losing both games of a quick two-game series against the Red Sox this week. The Reds did play close games though, losing each one by a score of 4-3, but their bullpen failed to be effective, taking the loss both times. The offense managed just four hits in Wednesday’s loss while star 1B Joey Votto (.263 BA) went 1-for-9 over the two games.

Toeing the rubber for Colorado in this one will be RHP Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 7.20 ERA) as he makes just his second start of the season. Opposing him for Cincinnati will be stud RHP Johnny Cueto (3-2, ML-best 1.31 ERA, ML-best 0.73 WHIP) who has won three of his past four games.

The Rockies have had a distinct advantage at home, so going on the road will be tough for them, as they are just 9-10 in away games this year. On the other hand, the Reds are sporting a mediocre 8-7 record when playing at home this season.

Since the start of the 2012 campaign, Cincinnati holds a 7-5 advantage in this matchup, but has split the six games at home (3-3). An advantage for Colorado in this one is that the club is 21-10 (.677) when playing on Friday since the start of last season. Meanwhile, the Reds have gone 28-8 (.778) in home games after a loss in the same timeframe. 1B Justin Morneau (neck) is questionable in this game for the Rockies, while CF Billy Hamilton, who has not started a game this month because of an injury to his knuckles, is also listed as questionable for Cincinnati.

Jhoulys Chacin was tremendous last year despite pitching half of his games in Colorado, and much of his success can be contributed to his ability to induce ground balls, doing so 46.8% of the time compared to just 38.5% in the previous season. He made his season debut on Sunday after returning from a strained shoulder and did not look good, giving up eight hits and four runs over five innings while striking out four and walking far too many batters with five free passes. His average fastball velocity in the start was just 87.7 MPH, and he has seen that number slowly drop since he was hitting 91.5 MPH on average back in 2010.

Chacin has faced the Reds three times over his career, going 1-2 with a solid 3.26 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, with the Under going 3-0 in those outings. He has not thrown against them since 2011, and in his most recent matchup, he lasted only 5.1 innings while giving up four hits and three runs with just three strikeouts and two walks. 1B Joey Votto has gone 3-for-10 with a double and four strikeouts in his career against Chacin while 2B Brandon Phillips, OF Ryan Ludwick and 3B Todd Frazier are a combined 2-for-12 in the matchup.

The Rockies' bullpen has done well despite playing plenty of games at Coors Field and has gone 6-6 overall with a 3.91 ERA and 1.36 WHIP while saving a subpar 9-of-16 games. Closer LaTroy Hawkins (2.92 ERA, 9 saves) has been effective as a 41-year-old though, picking up a save in all nine of his opportunities while striking out just five batters over 12.1 frames.

Johnny Cueto has been a stud for years now, sporting an ERA less than 2.85 in each season since 2011, but averaged just 22.7 starts per year between 2011 and 2013. This season he has picked it up even more and is striking guys out at a career-high rate (9.8 K/9) while having two complete games in his first seven starts. He has been lucky though, with batters producing just a .156 BABIP against him, a much lower number than his career .278 BABIP. Cueto has lasted at least seven innings in each of his starts, including going eight innings while allowing just three hits and two runs with 10 K's and only one walk in a win over the Brewers in his last outing on Saturday.

He’s 2-2 (2-3 team record) with a 4.05 ERA and 1.58 WHIP when facing the Rockies over his career, and has allowed 21 hits and nine runs in 10.2 IP over his past two starts against them. Surprisingly, in the second of those two games he earned a win, as his offense backed him in a 9-7 victory. OF Carlos Gonzalez has seen the ball well from Cueto, going 4-for-10 with a home run, double and 6 RBI against him in his career. SS Troy Tulowitzki has also done well (2-for-6, 1 double) in limited at-bats against the righty.

The Reds bullpen has struggled in the absence of Aroldis Chapman, going 2-8 with a 4.40 ERA and 1.58 WHIP while getting the save in just 6-of-11 chances. They have been better at home though, with a 3.63 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and a 2-2 record over 34.2 innings. Jonathan Broxton (0.00 ERA, 5 saves) is filling in as closer until Chapman returns, and has been spectacular. He has gone 5-for-5 in save opportunities while allowing just three hits in his eight innings on the mound.

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