The Dodgers have enjoyed arguably the biggest turnaround of the season in the last month.
After a 6-2 loss to the Padres on June 21, Los Angeles was 12 games under .500 and 9 1/2 games back in the National League West. Since then, the Dodgers are 23-6 and on Thursday, they played their first home game as the division's top team since the first series of the season.
The Dodgers shot out of the blocks to begin the second half, winning their first six games after the All-Star break before falling to the Reds in the series opener on Thursday. Still, manager Don Mattingly said his players currently possess a little extra something that they didn't have for much of the season.
"We're playing with confidence and we feel like we're going to win," Mattingly said. "I don't think you sustain a streak like this without playing with confidence and knowing that you have to go out every day and do your business."
The Reds also come into Friday's game playing well, having won six of eight since the break. Manager Dusty Baker said he didn't want his team to overthink playing a team as hot as the Dodgers, as Cincinnati looks for as many wins as possible while trying to keep pace with the Pirates and Cardinals in the NL Central.
"You just have to go out there and play your game," Baker said. "You can't worry about hot or cold because things can turn around. You can be hot one day and the next day freezing to death and vice versa."
Homer Bailey, who will take the mound for the Reds on Friday, knows exactly what the ups and downs of the game are like. Since throwing the second no-hitter of his career on July 2, Bailey has dropped three straight decisions, giving up 11 runs and 27 hits in 17 innings. He threw 121 pitches in his most recent start on Sunday, which might limit him on Friday.
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw, on the other hand, enters Friday having won four of his last five starts, including Sunday, when he allowed just a pair of solo home runs while striking out nine in seven innings against the Nationals. Kershaw's consistency has been his best asset, as he leads the Majors with a 2.01 ERA, .184 batting average against and 0.88 WHIP.
Reds: Cozart feeling good, could return Friday
Although Reds shortstop Zack Cozart was available to play on Thursday, he was out of the lineup and didn't see the field for the second day in a row as he battles a sore left hip. The injury came at a bad time for Cozart, who went 4-for-4 in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Tuesday and is batting .351 in his last 10 games.
Fortunately, all signs point toward Cozart returning to action for the Reds soon.
"He could have been ready today," manager Dusty Baker said before the series opener on Thursday. "I decided not to play him today and we'll wait until tomorrow. This way, he is available late in the game. I'd rather have him late in the game today than having to take him out late."
Cozart said he wanted to take the time to let the sore hip heal so he wouldn't have to deal with it the rest of the season.
"I'm definitely better today. I was better yesterday," Cozart said. "It's loosened up the past couple of days. I should be ready to play pretty soon."
Dodger: Lilly designated, Herrera recalled
One day after Ted Lilly was activated from the disabled list for the third time this season, the Dodgers made the decision to designated the 37-year-old lefty for assignment.
"I'm obviously not happy about what happened," Lilly said. "It's a pretty big turn of events. I went from being activated yesterday to them changing their mind today."
Lilly started five games this season, going 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA. Degenerative arthritis in his neck pushed Lilly to the bullpen, but instead of using him there, the Dodgers now have 10 days to place him on waivers, release him or trade him.
Mattingly said Lilly's health was the main reason the team decided to cut ties, but he also didn't want to mess with a bullpen that has been performing well as of late.
"It was just tough for us without seeing him, to displace one of the guys we have now," Mattingly said. "Our lefties, Paco [Rodriguez] and J.P. [Howell] are doing the job."
• No NL team has had more success against the Reds since 2006 than the Dodgers, who have gone 32-16 against Cincinnati in that time, including 15-7 at Dodger Stadium.
• Friday and Saturday's games will be broadcast on MBC Sports, which is MLB's exclusive TV broadcasting partner in South Korea.
• Reds first baseman Joey Votto has reached base in 37 straight games, four short of his career high, while third baseman Todd Frazier carries an eight-game hitting streak into Friday.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.