The Reds will look to disrupt the Cardinals' extended homestay, and you can bet they're not overlooking a three-game series with their division rivals this weekend.
St. Louis is in the middle of a stretch of 18 of 21 games at Busch Stadium, with the three-game series at Great American Ball Park that starts Friday representing the only contests away from home in that span. Both teams are chasing the first-place Brewers, but with the Cardinals having finished either first or second in the National League Central in each of the last five seasons, the Reds know they'll have to beat the Cards for a shot at the division crown.
"They've been our strongest competition in the five years I've been [with the Reds]," said Cincinnati manager Bryan Price, who served as the Reds' pitching coach for four seasons before being named manager in October. "We won the division a couple of times, they've won it, won a World Series, they've been to the World Series and lost. As far as the Central goes, they've accomplished more than anyone in the division."
The Cardinals are making their second trip to Great American Ball Park, where they took two of three in the season-opening series. St. Louis is 4-2 against the Reds this season after taking two of three at home, April 7-9. All told, they've won nine of their last 10 series against Cincinnati.
"It's always fun to play them," Price said. "The games are always high-spirited, competitive. I think there is a mutual respect, a mutual desire to go out there and knock the other one down a little bit."
Price will field a slightly different team than what the Cardinals last saw. On Wednesday, the Reds activated Jay Bruce from the disabled list but placed Joey Votto on the DL. Bruce, who wasn't in Wednesday's starting lineup, had surgery earlier this month to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee and hasn't played since May 4. He's hitting just .216 with three homers in 30 games this season.
Votto, meanwhile, hit the shelf due to a strained left quadriceps. The injury kept Votto out of the lineup the previous five games, so the move is retroactive to May 16. A four-time All-Star, Votto has hit .257 with six homers and 12 RBIs in 39 games.
Homer Bailey will take the hill for the Reds. The right-hander is 3-3 with a 5.44 ERA in nine starts this season.
Cardinals: Miller looking to build off last start
Shelby Miller was looking to fix his mechanics prior to his last start, and apparently it worked. The right-hander is coming off his best outing of the year, in which he allowed one unearned run in seven innings on Saturday to beat the Braves. Miller, who struck out seven and scattered five hits, made it to the seventh inning for the first time all season.
"Shelby had a great game plan going in and did a great job of executing today," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after the game. "He's got to stick with his bread and butter, which is the deception in the four-seam fastball. Today, he added the best breaking ball we have seen from him."
"I did a good job of keeping the hitters off balance and getting ahead on the count," Miller said. "My fastball command was a lot better today. I tried to be as efficient as possible.
Miller will take on the Reds for the second time this season in Friday's opener. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits in six innings and took the loss.
Reds: Ludwick rested, but status to be determined
Ryan Ludwick last played on Tuesday, giving the left fielder two full days to rest his injured left leg that Price said was experiencing "a little bit of swelling and inflammation just above his left kneecap." Now the hope is that Ludwick will be ready for the three-game series against the Cardinals.
The 35-year-old is batting .246 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 36 games this season, numbers that mirror his entire production during an injury-ravaged 2013 campaign. He batted .240 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 38 games last season.
"It hasn't been a great start," Price said. "But it hasn't been a terrible start, either. I know he'd like to hit for a bit more power and hit a few more home runs and doubles, but I think that will come.
"I think last year was a huge blow with the shoulder separation, missing the bulk of the season. We tried to get him back [late] in the season. He just wasn't the same guy. We're still hopeful that he'll come back and give us a real good performance here the rest of the way."
• Even though they committed six errors in the three-game series with Washington, the Reds have the highest fielding percentage (.988) and have committed the fewest errors (19) in the Major Leagues.
• Johnny Cueto's 82 strikeouts are the second most by a Reds pitcher through his first 10 starts of a season since 1900.
• Bruce is one home run shy of 100 at Great American Ball Park. Adam Dunn is the all-time leader with 126.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.