Sun Aug 18 3:04am ET
Rookie Aristides Aquino has been the talk of the majors since making his season debut on Aug. 1, while right-hander Jack Flaherty has silenced the opposition in that same stretch.
Something has to give on Sunday as Aquino looks to lead the Cincinnati Reds to a third win in their four-game series against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals.
Aquino continued his home-run barrage by belting a three-run shot in the fifth inning in the Reds' 6-1 victory on Saturday. The homer was the 25-year-old Aquino's 10th in his last 11 games, and his 11th in 58 plate appearances this season, with only Philadelphia's Mike Schmidt (1976) requiring a fewer number (56) to reach that mark.
"I just have to be focused on the (pitcher) in my at-bat," Aquino said through an interpreter. "Don't worry about pitches out of the zone ... and when they make mistakes, to try to take advantage of it."
Cincinnati manager David Bell acknowledged that Aquino's performances this month have captivated his attention.
"I have a job to do, but watching Aquino, I'm like a fan," Bell said. "We know what he's capable of doing, but it is fun to watch for me and the fans. He has an approach that he's comfortable with. He's locked in right now. (Saturday's) home run changed the complexion of the game."
Jose Iglesias is also locked in, as he has hit safely in all 12 games he's played this month.
Flaherty (6-6, 3.52 ERA) will be tasked with keeping Aquino in the park and Iglesias off the bases on Sunday when he carries a 23-inning scoreless streak into the series finale.
The 23-year-old Flaherty has won two of his three starts (21.0 innings) in August, allowing just eight hits and striking out 26 against four walks in that span.
"That's been Jack. That's who he's been. Just outstanding pitching," St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said.
Flaherty owns a 1-2 mark with a 2.60 ERA in six career appearances (all starts) against Cincinnati, although he has recorded a pair of strong outings this season. He scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings in a 5-2 win on April 28 in St. Louis, and then tossed six more scoreless frames in a no-decision on July 21 in Cincinnati.
Joey Votto (5-for-10) and Eugenio Suarez (3-for-10, homer) have fared well against Flaherty, but both are nursing injuries. Votto sat out his third straight game on Saturday with lower back tightness, while Suarez was a spectator with a left thumb sprain.
Cincinnati left-hander Alex Wood (1-1, 5.59 ERA) will attempt to rebound from his first loss of the season when he takes the mound on Sunday.
Wood permitted two homers on six hits in five innings of a 3-1 setback at Washington on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old has struggled to keep the ball in the park, surrendering six total in four starts covering 19 1/3 innings.
Wood has yet to record a decision and owns a 3.97 ERA in three career appearances (two starts) versus St. Louis.
The Cardinals were limited to Matt Carpenter's solo homer on Saturday, one day removed from erupting for 13 runs and a season-high 18 hits the previous night.
"We had some good at-bats, had some good opportunities," Shildt said. "... We weren't able to push anything across consistently."
--Field Level Media
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