Important game tonight. A win prevents the Reds (22-25) from falling five games behind the Cardinals and 6.5 behind the Brewers, who won today. The Reds leave after the game tonight on a West Coast road trip that starts with the Dodgers (Ryu, Grienke, Kershaw), who also won today.

Tonight’s game (8:07 p.m. ET) will be broadcast on ESPN Sunday Night BaseballBaseball Tonight will originate live from Crosley Terrace beginning at 7 p.m. Barry Larkin and Karl Ravech will host the show, which will be joined by Reds fan Charlie Sheen [insert joke about winning and 2.5 men] during the pre-game broadcast.

The Reds face Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. He’s the pitcher who shut out the Reds for seven innings on Opening Day. He’s also the guy who gave up nine runs to the Reds in two innings last August. Take your pick. Wainwright is having a Cy Young type year again (1.85 ERA / 2.46 FIP / 3.18 SIERA).

Bryan Price had the option of sending Johnny Cueto out to pitch. Cueto, like Wainwright, pitched last Tuesday so tonight would be a normal five-day cycle. But instead, Price kept the Reds rotation in order, sending Mike Leake to the mound. Leake (2.91 ERA / 3.87 FIP / 3.62 SIERA) is coming off two strong performances, allowing just one run in each of his last two starts. If it was my decision, priority on beating the Cardinals would have trumped other stuff (Marty said the same thing last night.)

The Reds lineup remains without first baseman Joey Votto, who is on the disabled list with a strained quad muscle. The news on Votto’s health (John Fay) is less-than-encouraging. Justin is afraid more than the quad is implicated.

On the bright side, it’s well past time to move on from the ZOMG COZART narrative.

Noteworthy: The Cardinals are resting Yadier Molina. Molina has averaged playing 138 games the past five seasons. If Devin Mesoraco played every game the rest of the year, he’d appear in 135.

Here’s the lineup. Billy the Blur is back in the leadoff spot. Otherwise, standard order for this series.

1. Billy Hamilton (S) CF
2. Todd Frazier (R) 3B
3. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
4. Jay Bruce (L) RF
5. Devin Mesoraco (R) C
6. Ryan Ludwick (R) LF
7. Brayan Pena (S) 1B
8. Zack Cozart (R) SS
9. Mike Leake (R) P
1

The game time weather forecast is 75º with zero percent chance of rain. The game has been sold out since yesterday. Should be an exciting night at the old ball yard. Go Reds!

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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