CINCINNATI -- The Arizona Diamondbacks continue their weekend series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park with manager Chip Hale's job status looming over the club.
Hale led Arizona to a 15-win improvement in 2015, his first season at the helm. After a busy offseason highlighted by the signing of Zack Greinke, the D-backs came into this year expecting to make a run at a National League West title.
But, injuries and overall inconsistent play led to a 40-56 start and last-place standing in the division, leading to rumblings that Hale might be replaced by Triple-A Reno manager Phil Nevin.
"I'm not going to make any comments about any rumors," said Hale, prior to Friday night's game. "Nothing ever surprises me in this game, about anything."
Following Friday night's 6-2 loss at Cincinnati, the Diamondbacks have dropped 16 of their last 20.
Greinke is the latest Arizona injury. The right-handed ace threw off the mound on Wednesday for the first time since being placed on the disabled list with a strained left oblique in mid-June. He will throw again on Saturday after which Hale hopes to define the next step in his rehab.
The D-backs also are without infielder Chris Owings and outfielder David Peralta, both rehabbing with the Triple-A Reno.
Arizona is hoping to continue its recent success against Cincinnati
Last season, the D-backs won six of seven meetings against the Reds who posted their lowest victory total against Arizona since 2002. Arizona had won the last five games at Great American Ball Park prior to Friday night.
Right-hander Keyvius Sampson gets a spot start for Cincinnati on Saturday. He'll be making his eighth appearance of the season but his first start. It's the second time he's faced Arizona as a starter. He last faced the Diamondbacks on Aug. 8, 2015 when he allowed one earned run and four hits in six innings in a 4-1 Reds' win.
Sampson tossed four scoreless innings in his last outing in relief, allowing three hits with two walks and five Ks. It was the longest relief outing of his career and the longest by a Cincinnati reliever since 2013.
Left-hander Robbie Ray will start on Saturday for Arizona. Ray threw seven shutout innings in his last start on July 17 against the Dodgers. He has struck out five or more batters in 18 consecutive starts.
Ray last faced the Reds on Aug. 8, 2015 when he allowed three earned runs in six innings, the same game in which Sampson last faced the D-backs.
He'll likely have to contend with the one-two punch at the top of Cincinnati's batting order in Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart who on Friday combined to 3-for-8 with a double, two walks and three runs scored.
"Cozart and I are two different players," Hamilton said. "He's a doubles machine. I'm not too much of a doubles machine. If I can get on base in front of him, we can score a lot of runs."