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Diamondbacks Try To Avoid Sweep, Saunders Faces Reds; 6:40 P.M. AZT

(Sports Network) - With their lead atop the National League's Central Division beginning to swell, the Cincinnati Reds will make an adjustment to their starting rotation for this evening's clash with the Arizona Diamondbacks from Chase Field.

Tonight had been Mike Leake's turn to start for the Reds, but the team has opted to move the rookie to the bullpen in the short term in order to conserve the prized prospect's innings for the stretch run. In Leake's place will be Travis Wood, another youngster who's made a positive impression during his short time in the majors.

Wood has compiled a 3-1 record with an outstanding 2.65 earned run average during an eight-start span from July 1-August 8, but was briefly sent back to Triple-A Louisville afterward because the Reds weren't in need of an fifth starter. The rookie had won three consecutive outings prior to being sent down.

In his most recent start in the majors, Wood picked up a victory at Chicago on August 8 after allowing four runs (three earned) and just four hits over 6 1/3 innings. Seven of the 23-year-old's eight big-league appearances have come on the road, and he's 3-0 with a solid 2.80 ERA over those games.

Wood will be attempting to extend Cincinnati's present win streak to a season- high six games and earn a sweep of this three-game set when he toes the rubber tonight. The Reds kept up their unbeaten run by putting forth a big late rally on Wednesday, scoring eight times over the final two innings to post an 11-7 come-from-behind triumph over the Diamondbacks.

Trailing 7-3 after seven innings, Cincinnati erupted for four runs in the top of the eighth to draw even and scored four more times in the ninth to forge ahead. The Reds took an 8-7 lead when Chris Heisey's pinch-hit bunt single plated Jim Edmonds, who began the ninth with a double, while Laynce Nix capped the big inning with a two-RBI double and knocked in three runs total on the evening.

Both Edmonds and Bruce had homered for Cincinnati earlier in the game, with Bruce ending 4-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored for the contest. Ramon Hernandez finished 3-for-4 with a run-scoring double for the Reds, who racked up 18 hits as a team.

The win gave Cincinnati a three-game advantage over slumping St. Louis in the NL Central standings, with the Cardinals' suffering their fourth straight loss in last night's defeat to Milwaukee.

The Reds will put another streak on the line when they take the diamond tonight. Cincinnati has now won seven consecutive times at Chase Field since a 3-2 loss on September 12, 2008 and is 15-3 in its past 18 overall matchups with the Diamondbacks.

Arizona relievers Sam Demel and Aaron Heilman were rocked for eight runs over a combined 2 2/3 innings on Wednesday, with Heilman (3-4) taking the loss after permitting four runs and five hits in just 1 1/3 frames.

"I can be critical of myself the way I handled the bullpen tonight," Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said afterward. "I just don't put it on those guys. As a team, we didn't stand up to it when it was on the line. I was just as responsible as the rest of the team."

Chris Young and Adam LaRoche each hit two-run homers and had a pair of hits apiece for Arizona, losers of five of its last six tilts.

Joe Saunders will attempt to get the Diamondbacks back on track, while ending a personal two-start skid in the process, when the midseason acquisition takes the mound for tonight's finale.

After delivering strong performances in his first two assignments since coming over from the Angels in the late-July trade involving former Arizona ace Dan Haren, Saunders has struggled in back-to-back starts. The 2008 All-Star was tagged for six runs (five earned) in six innings in a home setback to San Diego on August 8, then surrendered four runs and 10 hits through six frames in Friday's 4-2 loss at Washington.

Since being acquired by the D-Backs, Saunders is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA in four starts. The 29-year-old will be opposing the Reds for the first time tonight.

Saunders may not have to deal with one of Cincinnati's top hitters in this evening's showdown. All-Star first baseman Joey Votto was scratched from Wednesday's lineup after experiencing tightness in his back, and it's uncertain whether he'll in the Reds' lineup tonight.