The Dodgers have the luxury of a comfortable lead in their division, but the Reds do not.
Cincinnati is locked in a tight race in the National League Central, chasing Pittsburgh and St. Louis. So the Reds understand the importance of each game over the final three weeks of the regular season.
"It's September, and every day is a big game," said Reds third baseman Todd Frazier before the Reds' 3-2 win in the opener. "You have to understand that we have to win. We got a good shot. It's just going to be a fun race."
For the Reds to keep pace in Central, they will have to go through Dodgers ace and former division foe Zack Greinke on Saturday in the second game of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
Greinke has been in top form over the past five weeks, and he's 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA in his last seven starts. The Dodgers are 19-4 this season when the former Cy Young Award winner gets the ball. Greinke, a former Brewers standout, is 4-1 lifetime against the Reds, with a 2.57 ERA in seven starts.
The Dodgers could clinch the NL West as early as next week. Los Angeles is 26 games over .500, 36-10 in the second half and 53-15 since June 22.
But the Reds aren't getting caught up in those numbers.
"The key is just outplay them," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "Don't see the numbers on the back. Don't read about how great they are. Don't care about what their payroll is. On paper, they're supposed to beat everybody. But you don't play the game on paper."
Like Greinke, Reds starter Mat Latos will also be in search of his 15th win on Saturday. Latos has won six of his past eight decisions and has a 1.83 ERA over his last eight outings.
Dodgers: Puig returns to lineup
Yasiel Puig was back in the starting lineup on Friday for the first time since Monday after dealing with discomfort behind his right knee. The rookie started in right field, legged out an infield single in his first at-bat and finished the game 1-for-4 with a run scored.
"We wouldn't put him out there if we didn't think he was good to go," said manager Don Mattingly. "He says he's good to go. Training staff says he's OK. So, he's back."
• Matt Kemp suffered a setback while rehabbing from a sprained left ankle, as his troublesome right hamstring tightened up on Thursday at the Dodgers' Spring Training facility in Glendale, Ariz. Kemp, who subsequently was shut down, strained the same hamstring back in May and spent time on the disabled list.
Mattingly said there's a possibility Kemp, limited to 62 games this year, will not return this season.
"I don't like to concede anything," the manager said. "If the hamstring jumps back in there, we've got more issues."
Reds: Choo finding ways to get on base
Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored on Friday, and has reached base safely in each of his past 13 games. Choo is also the Major League leader among leadoff hitters with 20 home runs, 95 walks and a .421 on-base percentage.
"Very good ballplayer, and he's getting better," Baker said. "I told Choo he hasn't scratched the surface on what he's capable of doing."
• Brandon Phillips was able to start Friday's game despite a contusion in his left quad that forced the second baseman from Thursday's contest in the seventh inning. Phillips went 1-for-4 and was removed for a pinch-runner in the eighth.
"It's like a knot in my quad right now, but other than that, the more I just keep moving, it will loosen up," Phillips said.
• The Dodgers have won 17 of their past 22 series.
• Reds first baseman Joey Votto is 6-for-19 (.316) lifetime against Greinke, with one double and three homers.