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After flexing their muscles to improve their standing in the National League Central, the Cincinnati Reds will face a tougher challenge on Friday, when they open a three-game series against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. Todd Frazier belted two of his team's four solo homers on Thursday as Cincinnati cruised to a 6-2 triumph over St. Louis. The Reds reside three games behind division-leading Pittsburgh but own a commanding seven-game edge over Washington and Arizona in the race for the second wild card.
With a comfortable lead atop the NL West, Los Angeles elected to be conservative and scratch Hyun-Jin Ryu as he nurses a stiff back. Veteran Chris Capuano will get the nod on Friday as the Dodgers sit two games behind Atlanta for the top record in the NL. Michael Young has made his mark since being acquired from Philadelphia, collecting three hits and two runs scored in a 7-5 loss to Colorado on Wednesday.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, PRIME (Los Angeles), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Dodgers LH Chris Capuano (4-7, 4.41 ERA) vs. Reds RH Mike Leake (11-6, 3.51)
Capuano saw his winless stretch reach five games despite yielding just one run on eight hits over seven innings in a no-decision against San Diego on Saturday. The 35-year-old pitched well in his last outing versus Cincinnati on July 28 but walked away with a no-decision as well. Capuano, who is 3-3 lifetime against the Reds, scattered three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings in that contest.
Leake's struggles continued in his last outing, as he yielded six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings en route to a 7-4 loss to Colorado. The 25-year-old has permitted 28 runs in his last six starts (33 2/3 innings) to see his ERA inflate by more than half a run. Leake hasn't fared well versus Los Angeles, going 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA while allowing the Dodgers to hit .301 against him.
1. Los Angeles OF Andre Ethier is 5-for-9 with a pair of homers versus Leake.
2. Cincinnati SS Zack Cozart is riding a season-high 10-game hitting streak but is just 6-for-27 (.222) against the Dodgers - and 0-for-2 versus Capuano.
3. Los Angeles LHP Clayton Kershaw was named the winner of the 2013 Branch Rickey Award, which honors "individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people."
PREDICTION: Reds 4, Dodgers 3