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CIN@COL: Latos fans eight over eight to earn the win

What do the Pirates have to show for their 12-7 record since the All-Star break? The one-game cushion they previously enjoyed in the National League Central is now a deficit of 3 1/2 games entering Friday, thanks to baseball's hottest team over the last few weeks, the Reds.

Since the break, Cincinnati has gone 17-3, including a 10-game winning streak that ended with Monday's loss against San Diego.

The Bucs meet the Reds in Cincinnati in a three-game series that starts on Friday night, and the importance of the weekend isn't lost on either club.

"It's going to be a big series," Reds manager Dusty Baker said after a 9-4 win against the Padres on Thursday. "It's going to be a playoff series here. We know they want to get closer and we want to put some distance so it's going to be tooth-and-nail. It's pretty even. Home runs are pretty even. They're close in batting average, close in pitching, close in stolen bases, close in a lot of departments so it's going to be a very good series."

For the visitors, Wandy Rodriguez will make his second appearance with the Pirates, while the Reds will throw Mat Latos, winner of two straight starts.

"Their games are on in here a lot. We're always watching," Pirates rookie reliever Jared Hughes said. "It's getting to the point, where, yeah, we're paying attention. We know when we go in there this week, it's time to win. There's no other option. We're going in there, and we're winning."

That won't be an easy task, but the Pirates took two out of three games in their last trip to Great American Ball Park. The Bucs own a 5-4 edge in the season series.

For the Pirates, this weekend's set marks the end of a stretch of 13 straight games against division rivals. They began it by dropping two of three to the Cubs at home, but have since taken three out of four in Houston and two out of three in Chicago. Pittsburgh had an off-day on Thursday, while the Reds wrapped a four-game series with the Padres.

"It will be fun," Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "We're ready to roll. Bring it on. I'm excited for it. They're playing good baseball. I have all the confidence in this team. Hopefully, we can keep rolling."

Pirates: Wandy going for first win with Bucs
In his first outing with his new team, Rodriguez turned in a quality start against his former club, Houston, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings. He issued a season-high five walks and struck out five batters. The Pirates won the game, but the lefty earned a no-decision. He has faced the Reds three times this season, compiling a 1-1 record and 6.35 ERA.

• Besides Rodriguez, other new acquisitions to see playing time for the Pirates include right fielder Travis Snider and first baseman Gaby Sanchez. In two starts against the Cubs, Snider went 3-for-9 and scored three runs. Sanchez, who started on Wednesday and batted cleanup, went hitless in two at-bats with a strikeout and a walk.

Reds: Latos looking for third straight win
Latos surrendered just two runs in each of his two most recent starts, both wins. He struck out three Astros in five innings on July 23 and eight Rockies in eight innings on July 29. Latos has faced Pittsburgh one time this season, earning a win on the road.

• Cincinnati's only deal leading up to the Trade Deadline was the trade that brought right-handed reliever Jonathan Broxton from the Royals. In Kansas City, Broxton went 23-for-27 in save opportunities and posted a 2.27 ERA.

Worth noting
• Following this weekend's series, the Pirates and Reds will play six more times in the regular season. There's a three-game series in Cincinnati scheduled for Sept. 10-12 and a three-game set in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28-30.

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