The Cincinnati Reds begin a 10-game road stretch with at least one of their key veterans out of action. That could make things more difficult against the Cleveland Indians, who are playing their best baseball on the young season.
Those ailing Reds look to keep the host Indians from extending their season-high winning streak to six games on Friday night.
Cincinnati is 5-3 following a season-high seven-game losing streak. However, it kicks off this extended road stay minus veteran Joey Votto, out at least three weeks with a fractured thumb suffered after being hit by a pitch during Wednesday's 1-0, 10-inning victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Manager David Bell has not decided on a plan to replace Votto, batting just. 226 with five homers and 17 RBIs, but Mike Moustakas, Alex Blandino and Kyle Farmer all could be options at first base.
"No matter which way we go, it'll be a good call and the right call," Bell told the Reds' official website. "We've just got to figure it out."
The Reds are also dealing with some mid-back tightness to fellow star Nick Castellanos, who was scratched from Wednesday's lineup. It's uncertain if Castellanos, batting .324 with nine homers and 20 RBI this season, will be fully available for this series.
Cincinnati took two of three from the Indians at home last month, but it has totaled 12 runs while losing four of the last five at Cleveland -- dating to July 2018. The Reds were shut out in each of their last two games there and now face an Indians' club that just recorded a four-game road sweep of Kansas City and has won five in a row and nine of the last 11.
Scheduled Indians starter Zach Plesac (2-3, 4.78 ERA) is 0-2 with a 5.11 ERA against the Reds, but threw 5 2/3-scoreless innings despite walking four during a 5-0 road win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
After yielding 12 runs over 5 2/3 innings in two starts -- both against the White Sox -- in mid-April, the right-hander has given up three runs over 13 1/3 innings of his last two starts.
"The ball feels like it's three ounces in my hand," Plesac told the Indians' official website. "I feel good. I feel confident with every pitch.
"I'm working every day. I'm trying to make myself better any way I can."
The Reds turn to veteran Wade Miley (3-2, 2.67 ERA), who has allowed two runs with five hits and two walks in each of his last two starts -- the most recent over five innings in an 8-6 win over the Chicago Cubs on April 30.
However, the left-hander's roughest outing of 2021 came during a 6-3 loss to Cleveland on April 18, when he allowed a three-run homer to Roberto Perez and solo shot to Jose Ramirez over five innings.
Perez is on the injured list with a broken finger, but Ramirez is batting .333 with four extra-base hits during a seven-game home hitting streak.
Cincinnati's Jesse Winker is batting .359 on the season and 9-for-24 (.375) in his last six games versus Cleveland. However, he's 0-for-5 against Plesac.
Teammate and ex-Indian Tyler Naquin returns to Cleveland looking for his first homer since hitting his sixth of the season against his former club on April 18.
--Field Level Media