Starting pitchers Sonny Gray and Kwang Hyun Kim will continue their comeback from back injuries when the Cincinnati Reds visit the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.
Gray (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will make his second start for the Reds after recovering from a mid-back strain. Kim (0-0, 9.00 ERA) will make his second start for the Cardinals after overcoming back stiffness.
Both teams will be seeking to regain traction in this three-game series at Busch Stadium. The Reds arrive with a four-game losing streak, and the Cardinals have lost eight their last 11.
Gray allowed two runs on six hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. He reported no ill effects from that outing.
"I feel very good and very confident with where I'm at," Gray said Thursday.
The Reds would welcome a strong start after their bullpen allowed 12 runs in Thursday's 14-11 loss to Arizona.
"Unfortunately it was just a tough series for the boys because we had a very, very realistic chance of winning all three of those games," reliever Sean Doolittle said after that game. "We ended up getting swept. That's tough."
Last season Gray was 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals. He is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in five career starts against them.
Gray has been tough on key Cardinals Paul Goldschmidt (0-for-12), Paul DeJong (1-for-8) and Yadier Molina (1-for-6).
The Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 9-4 on Saturday in Kim's previous start, but he allowed three runs on five hits, a walk and a hit batter in three innings.
Kim won both of his 2020 starts against the Reds as a rookie. The left-hander threw 11 scoreless innings while allowing just six hits.
Starting pitchers Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez combined for a 1.89 ERA as the Cardinals lost two of three road games to the Washington Nationals this week.
"We're getting close to what that rhythm looks like for how we like to play," Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. "It's our pitching. We've gotten that starting pitcher in the groove, working ahead, good rhythm."
Shildt hopes Kim continues that trend.
"There's no question this guy can go deep in games and be super-efficient for us," he said.
The Cardinals are expected to activate outfielder Tyler O'Neill (groin strain) from the injured list. While he was sidelined, Matt Carpenter played second base when Tommy Edman moved to right field.
But Carpenter has gone 3-for-37 with 16 strikeouts this season.
"It's a beautiful game and it's a hard game and that's why we love it," Shildt said. "We love the fact that it can be a challenge. Matt's been challenged. We've been challenged. And we'll be in for more starting Friday at home."
The Reds won two of three home games against the Cardinals to open their season. That series was highlighted by a benches-clearing confrontation triggered by Reds outfielder Nicholas Castellanos taunting Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford.
Castellanos served a two-game suspension this week after losing his appeal. With slugger Mike Moustakas shelved by a non-COVID-19 illness, the Reds welcomed Castellanos' return.
"He's just an all-around good player," manager David Bell said. "He's a big part of the team. We didn't have him two games. That's over, it's done, it's in the past.
"We have him back now and we move forward."
--Field Level Media