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SF@COL: Nicasio fans nine, holds Giants scoreless

The last time Greg Reynolds pitched in a Major League game in Colorado, it was September 2011, and the right-hander, now 28, was still a member of the Rockies. Now with a Reds team desperate to start a winning streak, Reynolds will return to the mound at Coors Field on Saturday to face his former club for the first time.

Making his second straight start in place of left-hander Tony Cingrani, who continues to battle a sore lower back, Reynolds finds himself in the middle of a heated division race after spending most of the season with Triple-A Louisville. Cincinnati trails Pittsburgh and St. Louis, which are tied for the lead in the National League Central, by three and a half games. The Reds hold the second Wild Card spot, with no other team within five games.

With a chance to move up in the standings this week against St. Louis, Cincinnati barely escaped a sweep after already having lost two of three against the Brewers in the prior series. With Friday's loss, the Reds have lost five of their last seven.

Fortunately for manager Dusty Baker and his club, Reynolds showed he could give the Reds a chance last Sunday, when he allowed just two runs and five hits in six innings against the Brewers. Both runs came on a Caleb Gindl homer in the second inning, and although Reynolds was pleased with his performance, he acknowledged he could have been better.

"I was able to slow it down and make a pitch when I had to," Reynolds said. "I got myself behind in the counts and [threw] a little bit more balls than I'm used [to]. I'd definitely like to do a better job at executing early."

Rockies starter Juan Nicasio executed about as well as possible his last time out, and he will look to carry that into Saturday. In six scoreless innings against the Giants on Monday, Nicasio surrendered only four hits while walking two and striking out nine. It was his third scoreless outing since July 12, when he returned from a brief stint in the Minors.

Along with his usual dose of fastballs, Nicasio on Monday was able to effectively throw his slider and changeup, indicating how far he has come since his rough first three months of the season.

"I think early [this season] a lot of those sliders were a ball out of his hand, so they didn't really serve a purpose," manager Walt Weiss said. "But now when he gets it closer to the plate, it's a very effective pitch, especially on righties."

Originally scheduled to pitch Sunday, Nicasio was bumped up a day to set up the return of Tyler Chatwood, who has been on the disabled list since Aug. 7, in the series finale.

Rockies: Gonzalez set to begin rehab stint
After more than three weeks on the disabled list with a sprained right middle finger, Carlos Gonzalez will be back on the field Saturday. Unfortunately for the Rockies, he will be playing for Triple-A Colorado Springs, as he is scheduled to begin a three-game rehab assignment.

Gonzalez took batting practice Tuesday for the first time since going on the DL with the sprained finger, which has been bothering him since July 7. Despite missing a month, he still leads Colorado in homers (26) and RBIs (70).

The left-fielder's rehab assignment will begin with seven innings Saturday before full games on Sunday and Monday. Although it is good news for Gonzalez to get back into action, Weiss is eager for him to do so for the Rockies.

"It's big that we finish strong as a team, and CarGo has talked about getting back here with us and helping us finish strong," Weiss said. "So yeah, it would be huge to have him back and have that bat back in the middle of our lineup. Fun to see him out there doing his thing again."

• Center fielder Dexter Fowler was still out of action Friday as he battled a left knee injury he sustained Monday trying to steal second base.

"He's getting better," Weiss said. "I still think he's a few days away, but he's definitely improving."

Reds: Duke called up to bolster 'pen
Baker likes the idea of having three lefties at his disposal in the bullpen. He now enjoys that luxury after the Reds called up Zach Duke from Triple-A Louisville before Friday's loss to the Rockies.

Right-hander Nick Christiani was sent down to Lousiville in a corresponding move, and fellow righty Justin Freeman was designated for assignment to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Duke, who joins Manny Parra and closer Aroldis Chapman as the trio of active left-handers in the Reds' bullpen.

Duke last pitched in the Majors for Washington, building an 8.71 ERA in 12 appearances (20 2/3 innings) before being released June 10. With the move coming before Sept. 1, Duke is eligible for the playoff roster, and he said he was ready to help Cincinnati as the club pushes for the National League Central crown.

"I didn't perform very well with the Nationals," Duke said. "I am certainly [throwing] better than earlier in the year. I got more regular work with the role I was in there in Louisville. I got in a good groove. I'm commanding the ball well and mixing it up well."

Duke made his Reds debut in Friday's loss to the Rockies, pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings in relief with two strikeouts.

Worth noting
• In 31 games (29 starts) against the Reds, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is batting .373 (44-for-118 with 28 RBIs and 11 homers.

• Despite the Reds picking up a sweep at Coors Field last season, the Rockies are 15-6 at home against Cincinnati since 2007.

• Since the Reds opened the season series with a 3-0 win June 3, the Rockies have won three straight over Cincinnati.

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