Reds’ take struggling offense to Baltimore

Published 12:52 am Friday, June 24, 2011

The Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker hopes his team is ready to break out of its offensive slump, and getting to use a designated hitter could help.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter might wish there was still a spot in the order for his pitchers.

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The Reds and Orioles meet at Camden Yards for the first time Friday night in the start of a three-game series.

Cincinnati (39-37) arrives in Baltimore following a 10-2 victory over the visiting New York Yankees on Wednesday in the second game of a day-night doubleheader. Sparked by Chris Heisey’s three-homer game — just the third by a Reds leadoff hitter — Baker’s club scored one more run than in its previous five games combined.

“That was a good night,” Baker said. “That might get our offense rolling.”

The Reds could benefit from better production by sluggers Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. Bruce has hit .156 in the last 10 games and is homerless in 19 straight. Votto has one homer in his past 17 games and batted .174 without an RBI on a just-completed 2-4 homestand.

Neither has faced Orioles pitching.

Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes hit .201 with eight homers and 18 RBIs in 43 games against Baltimore while with Tampa Bay from 2003-08, and he’ll likely get plenty of at-bats in this series as the designated hitter. Heisey or Fred Lewis will probably play left field and give Cincinnati a much-needed extra bat — its pitchers are hitting .151.

“The American League, with the DH in it, they’ve programmed these teams to be high-offense teams,” Baker told the Reds’ official website.

“Even the worst teams in the American League can hit. … In order to offset hitting, you better have pitching.”

Orioles pitchers had their turn at the plate in the past six games with the team visiting Washington and Pittsburgh, and they hit .467 (7 for 15) with two RBIs. Friday’s starter, Chris Jakubauskas (2-0, 5.14 ERA), went 2 for 3 in his last outing.

“Believe me, we’re going to hear about it the rest of the season when I’m looking for a pinch-hitter,” Showalter told the Orioles’ official website.

Showalter, though, surely wants Vladimir Guerrero back at his regular designated hitter spot. The former MVP had four at-bats in the six games at NL parks.

Guerrero is a .366 hitter in 52 games against the Reds.

Opening a stretch of 23 consecutive games against teams currently above .500, Baltimore (33-39) hopes Jakubauskas can post his third win in four starts since joining the rotation. He struck out a career-high six and threw five innings of three-run ball in Sunday’s 7-4 victory over Washington.

“Funny things happen when you can command a fastball, and that’s what Jak can do,” Showalter said.

Jakubauskas will face Cincinnati for the first time.

Edinson Volquez (4-3, 5.61) makes his first start in Baltimore after pitching twice against the Orioles in Arlington while with Texas from 2005-07.

Volquez is trying to rebound from a 4-0 loss to Toronto on Saturday when he yielded four runs and seven hits. Though it was the worst of his three outings since a brief demotion to Triple-A Louisville last month, Volquez had eight strikeouts and two walks in five innings.

He’ll look to cool off Nick Markakis, batting .400 during the AL’s longest active hitting streak of 13 games.

J.J. Hardy has four straight two-hit games and is batting .380 with seven homers and 15 RBIs this month. His 15 homers against the Reds — all with Milwaukee — are the most he’s hit off any team.

Baltimore lost two of three at Cincinnati in the teams’ only series June 10-12, 2005.