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Reds aim to finish homestand with sweep of Rays

Jul 3, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Shane Baz (11) delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Reds look to continue their magical ride against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and complete the three-game series sweep when the two teams meet Sunday.

The Reds earned their second straight 10-inning win Saturday when they scored twice in the bottom of the 10th to beat the Rays, who conclude their 11-game road trip in Cincinnati. The Rays are 5-5 in their first 10 games.

The Reds have won three straight and aim to wrap up their season-long 11-game homestand with a flourish. The Reds are 5-5 after losing five of the first seven games on the stand.

The Rays send right-hander Shane Baz (1-1, 2.92 ERA) to the mound in the finale of the weekend interleague series with the Reds.

Last Sunday at Toronto, the 23-year-old became the third starter in Rays history age 23 or younger to make four straight starts allowing fewer than two runs, joining Matt Moore in 2012 and Scott Kazmir in 2007 and 2006.

Baz earned his first win of 2022 in his last start, allowing just one run on seven hits over six innings in Tampa Bay’s 7-3 win at Toronto.

The Reds counter with rookie lefty Nick Lodolo (1-2, 4.19), making his fifth start of 2022 and his second since a 69-day stint on the injured list with lower right back strain.

Matched up against New York Mets ace Max Scherzer in his last start on Tuesday, Lodolo struck out eight and allowed just three hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings.

The Rays will be without their young star Wander Franco, who is headed back to Florida to have his right hand and wrist examined after leaving in the first inning Saturday. Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier left in the ninth inning with a limp.

The Rays Saturday added catching and corner infield depth when they acquired Christian Bethancourt from the Oakland A’s for minor leaguer outfielder Cal Stevenson and minor league right-handed pitcher Christian Fernandez.

Bethancourt is batting .249 with four homers and 19 RBIs in 169 plate appearances this year for Oakland. The need was made more urgent with the uncertainty regarding the return of starting catcher Mike Zunino.

“(A’s manager) Mark Kotsay said he really liked him when we played Oakland early on,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Bethancourt before Saturday’s game in Cincinnati. “He’s done some nice things at the plate. We’re excited to get him in here.”

Bethancourt is not expected to join the team until Monday in St. Petersburg when they open a home series against the Boston Red Sox.

The Reds saw immediate returns at the back end of their bullpen on Friday when Alexis Diaz returned from a right biceps strain to strike out three in a scoreless eighth inning in relief of Luis Castillo.

Diaz had a 2.40 ERA and 1.00 WHIP before going on the injured list on June 19 with right biceps tendinitis.

“It’s great to have Diaz back, any time, he would make any bullpen better,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Just also the fact that he’s rested and available to pitch. That will be helpful. Thankfully it wasn’t a long-term injury. He got a little reset, was able to heal up and hopefully can finish the year staying healthy.”

The Reds designated right-hander Robert Dugger for assignment to make room for Diaz.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto was out of the lineup for the sixth straight game on Saturday because of back tightness. Votto told the team that he is improving and has been taking batting practice on the field.

“There’s a chance he could play (Sunday),” Bell said.

–Field Level Media