Winners of six of their last eight, the D-backs aren't letting the National League Central run away with three postseason spots.
After sweeping the Orioles last week and taking two of three from the Pirates in Pittsburgh over the weekend, Arizona has split its first two games in Cincinnati, coming away victorious Tuesday on the back of stellar performances from All-Stars Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt.
Now trailing the Reds by five games for the second NL Wild Card spot, the club will look to trim its deficit to four when it takes the field Wednesday for the third game of the four-game set at Great American Ball Park.
Still looking for his first win since coming off the disabled list at the beginning of August, Brandon McCarthy will toe the rubber for the D-backs. In his last start, the 30-year-old surrendered four runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings of work against the Pirates. Afterwards, he confessed that one pitch in particular has been limiting his ability to get hitters out.
"Mostly my cutter hasn't come back off the DL with me," McCarthy said. "I don't know where that's gone, but it hasn't been sharp. It hasn't been the pitch that I'd like it to be, so I've had to rely on my sinker, which is OK, but if I can complement it with something else -- it's kind of been a one-pitch show for the last few starts. To be successful, I need to add some more in there."
Even though his team is coming off a loss, Reds manager Dusty Baker believes Cincinnati, which has won 10 of its last 14 and sits within striking distance of the lead in the NL Central, still has its best baseball ahead.
"Maybe this is a team that kind of crams," Baker said. "This team I could imagine cramming for tests all the time. We wanted to get it together, but we're getting personnel back. This team has a lot of pride, this team is together, and they know what I expect, and I know what they expect from themselves."
Hoping to clinch at least a series split Wednesday for the Reds will be Mike Leake, who has struggled of late, going 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA over his last three starts.
A product of Arizona State, Leake turned in one of his best performances of the season when he faced the D-backs in Phoenix earlier in the year. The 25-year-old was perfect through 5 2/3 innings before a double and home run put an end to the perfect game, no-hitter and shutout. Leake ended up tossing eight innings and allowing just two runs.
Reds: Marshall resumes throwing
Just over one month since a setback that shut him down, reliever Sean Marshall resumed a throwing program on Monday.
"We were only out 60 feet, but we were starting up the process again," head trainer Paul Lessard said on Tuesday. "He's been down for a while. If all goes well, we might speed it up vs. the offseason throwing program."
Assuming there aren't any issues, Marshall will throw again on Wednesday and continue to work on strengthening his shoulder.
• Rotation ace Johnny Cueto is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on Friday to see if he has shown any improvement. Cueto, who has yet to resume throwing, went on the DL for a third time on June 29 because of a strained right lat muscle.
D-backs: Putz improving, but Ziegler to remain closer
Although J.J. Putz is starting to look like his old self again on the mound, boasting a 1.15 ERA in 20 games since coming off the disabled list on June 29, the reliever is not likely to move back into his old closer's role at the moment.
After Putz blew a save in New York on July 1, manager Kirk Gibson moved him into more of a matchup/setup role, with Brad Ziegler taking over as closer. Ziegler has gone 7-for-8 in save opportunities since.
"I think we'll leave it the way it is right now," Gibson said.
• Goldschmidt hit his third grand slam Tuesday, becoming the first D-backs player in franchise history to collect three in a single season.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.