Opposite dugout: Baker returns to Cincinnati to Reds team far from how he left it

reds-logo.pngManager: Bryan Price (3rd season)

Record: 19-35

Last 10 games: 4-6

Who to watch: SS Zack Cozart (.306/.333/.524 with 7 HR, 20 RBIs), RF Jay Bruce (.275 with 11 HR, 36 RBIs), LF Adam Duvall (.260 with 14 HR, 31 RBIs), RHP Dan Straily (3-2, 3.43 ERA), RHP Blake Wood (4-1, 3.76 ERA)

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (5-1 in 2015)

Pitching probables:

June 3: LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. LHP Brandon Finnegan, 7:10 p.m., MASN2
June 4: RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. RHP Dan Straily, 4:10 p.m., MASN
June 5: RHP Tanner Roark vs. RHP Jon Moscot, 1:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Reds:

Nationals skipper Dusty Baker will face the second of the clubs he's managed when the Nationals travel to Cincinnati to face the Reds, who have not done well since he departed. Baker took the Reds to the postseason three times in his six years at the helm, not making it past the National League Division Series, yet still playing October baseball. The Reds haven't had a winning season since Bryan Price took over for Baker after the 2013 season, in which they lost to the Pirates in the NL wild card game.

Today's Reds are dwelling in the basement of the impossibly tough NL Central at 19-35, the second-worst record in the league ahead of only the Braves (16-37). The offseason trading of homegrown All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier solidified the Reds entering a rebuilding phase, and they are feeling the pains of retooling. Cincinnati went 8-20 in May, but an 11-game losing streak in the middle of the month really dug them a hole. In fact, half of their wins last month came in the first week, meaning they have lost 18 of their last 24 games after winning their first two in June.

The Reds do have some offensive bright spots, though. Shortstop Zack Cozart is slashing .306/.333/.524 to lead the team. Right fielder Jay Bruce has a team-high 36 RBIs to go with his 11 home runs, and left fielder Adam Duvall has a team-high 14 home runs with 31 RBIs. Even 34-year-old second baseman Brandon Phillips has 23 RBIs, but was day-to-day with a foot injury until playing last night. First baseman Joey Votto hasn't been slugging consistently like usual, but he has knocked nine longballs and has 31 RBIs.

So pitching must be the Reds' problem, and indeed, they have the worst ERA (5.70) in the majors. Tonight, 23-year-old lefty Brandon Finnegan gets the ball to start this series. He is 1-4 with a 4.14 ERA, with the Reds losing his last eight starts over which he has a 4.96 ERA. He did pitch a complete game in a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers in L.A., so don't sleep on his toughness. His outing against the Nationals last year was the first of his career against the club and the only loss the Reds suffered at the Nats' hands.

Righty Dan Straily will start Saturday's late afternoon game with a 3-2 record and 3.43 ERA. Straily, who was selected off waivers by the Reds from the Padres before the start of the season, started in the bullpen and made his first start in a Cincinnati uniform on April 18. In his fifth big league season, this will be his first start against the Nationals. And right-hander Jon Moscot will start Sunday's finale. The 24-year-old made his major league debut last year but is struggling to find his footing in his sophomore campaign, starting 0-3 with a 7.13 ERA and coming off a trip to the disabled list with inflammation in his non-pitching shoulder. This will also be his first outing against the Nats.

Where the Nats are near the top of the majors, the Reds find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum. But for whatever reason, Cincinnati has had D.C.'s number, going 5-1 against the Nats last year. Look for the Nationals to come in hot after a three-game sweep in Philadelphia to get back at their new skipper's former club.

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