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Blue Jays-Reds preview
CINCINNATI (WKRC) -- The AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays should be thrilled to be in Cincinnati. But anywhere other than New York would be just fine.
The Blue Jays are hoping a change of scenery can help them begin reversing a sluggish stretch Friday night in the opener of this three-game set with the Reds.
Toronto (41-33) has dropped nine of 12 after being swept in a three-game set by the New York Yankees, including Thursday's 6-4 defeat. It was the Blue Jays' 16th straight loss in New York and 25th in 27 visits, slicing their division lead over the Yankees to 1 1/2 games.
"Hey, if you're going to play in prime time, you've got to perform on the big stage and we didn't do it," manager John Gibbons said. "We're fully capable of doing it. We just didn't do it. It'll be definitely good to move on."
Gibbons' team now heads to Cincinnati (35-36) with an 8-4 all-time record against the Reds.
Edwin Encarnacion was a bright spot Thursday for Toronto, belting his team-leading 21st home run. He spent his first four-plus seasons with the Reds, and has only faced his former team on the road in a pinch-hitting role June 19, 2011.
Encarnacion is 8 for 20 with three doubles and that homer over the last five games.
Toronto was scheduled to start R.A. Dickey in the opener of this series, but will instead push him back to Sunday due to a groin injury.
"It makes sense to give him another day or two," Gibbons said.
Taking Dickey's place will be Liam Hendriks, who will be recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. The right-hander went 1-0 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts for Toronto last month, and he's 6-0 with a 1.92 ERA in 12 games - 10 starts - in the minors.
"'We think it's important to protect the rotation a little bit," Gibbons said. "He pitched well for us a couple of outings earlier in the year. Hopefully he gives us a boost, too. ... He'll be here for one start and he'll go back and it'll just kind of give those guys a little extra breather."
Hendriks, who spent his first three seasons with Minnesota, has lost both of his interleague starts, giving up 11 runs - five earned - with four homers in 10 innings.
The Reds are trying to bounce back from Thursday's 4-3, 12-inning loss at Pittsburgh after winning six of the previous seven games.
Mat Latos will try to help them get back to .500 in his second start since returning from elbow and knee surgeries.
The veteran right-hander was pulled after 87 pitches through six innings Saturday, but was superb in allowing just two hits only to have the bullpen waste the effort in a 4-2 loss at Milwaukee.
"It has been a struggle to get where I was," Latos said. "It is definitely good. The outcome kind of sucks, but that is baseball."
Latos will now try to win an interleague start on the road for the first time since beating Tampa Bay on June 22, 2010. He's 0-2 with a 6.45 ERA in four games since compared to a 5-0 record and 3.15 ERA over his last seven home starts against AL opponents.
His only start against the Blue Jays was a home victory with San Diego on June 15, 2010, in his first full season in the majors.
Cincinnati's Joey Votto has hit safely in all nine games since returning from a strained quadriceps, going 12 for 36 with eight RBIs.