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Reds-Giants Preview

While Tim Hudson and Homer Bailey have taken different paths to identical records, they share recent struggles.

Both starters will try to overcome discouraging stretches as the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds complete a four-game set Sunday at AT&T Park, though one of their teams is in considerably higher spirits.

The Giants (46-35) will try to avoid suffering their third sweep in the last five series after dropping the first three games with Cincinnati to fall to 4-14 since June 9.

The Reds (42-38) won 7-3 in 11 innings Saturday and have now taken seven of eight to improve to 13-4 since June 11 and 6-1 in San Francisco since July 22.

San Francisco plans to have first baseman Brandon Belt back in the lineup for the finale after he missed 45 games with a broken left thumb. He was originally scheduled to remain on a rehab assignment through Sunday.

"He feels great so we went ahead and bumped him up," manager Bruce Bochy told MLB's official website.

The Giants have scored six runs in the series and are averaging 3.22 during their slump, but offense might not be the main concern. Their pitching has allowed at least five earned runs 11 times in the last 18 contests - a span in which the bullpen has a 5.03 ERA.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, scored five in the top of the 11th Saturday and is averaging 6.06 runs over its last 17 games. Billy Hamilton collected three hits and is 7 for 14 in the series, boosting his average to a season-high .282.

Hudson (7-4, 2.62 ERA) can no longer fall back on an unbeaten season at home after surrendering six runs - four earned - and nine hits in Tuesday's 7-2 loss to San Diego. He's 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA and 21 hits allowed in 10 1-3 innings over his last two starts.

"He wasn't quite in the same sync," Bochy said. "He was missing his spots and elevating the ball. But he's healthy. He'll be fine."

The veteran right-hander is 5-1 with a 3.20 ERA in eight career starts against the Reds. Brandon Phillips, who homered for the second time in three games Saturday, is 4 for 24 against Hudson, while Joey Votto is 2 for 11. Jay Bruce is 3 for 7 with a home run.

Bailey (7-4, 4.80) has been nowhere near as impressive as Hudson this season, and the wins stopped coming in his last three starts with mediocrity catching up to him. He's 0-1 with a 5.71 ERA in three consecutive road outings after winning his previous four starts.

The right-hander allowed four runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 7-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs to give him a 5.47 road ERA this season, though he's not evaluating a larger trend.

"I just kind of lost command there a little bit," Bailey said. "That's all that it boils down to."

He beat the Giants in Cincinnati on June 3, yielding three runs and five hits in six innings, to improve to 3-0 with a 4.30 ERA in seven career starts. However, his last two starts at AT&T Park have produced 10 runs in 11 1-3 innings.

Buster Posey is 1 for 11 against Bailey, while Pablo Sandoval is 3 for 16.

That duo has been rather difficult to retire of late. Posey's .367 average in 24 games in June is fourth-best in the majors, and Sandoval's .337 mark since May 11 is third in the National League.

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