It was about a month ago that Philadelphia and Cincinnati met for their first series of the season, and it was a rough one for the visiting Phillies, who scored just four total runs on the way to being swept out of town.
When the two clubs meet for their second three-game series, starting Friday at Citizens Bank Park, it will be the Phillies' final shot at redemption against the Reds. If the bats once again don't come through -- Philadelphia is ranked 26th in Major League Baseball in runs scored -- at least Charlie Manuel gets to send a surging Cliff Lee to the mound.
Lee started the season strong with two wins and a no-decision while not allowing more than two runs in any of his first three starts. However, he followed that up with a three-game stretch in which he went 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA. In his last two games -- both wins -- Lee has appeared to return to form, most recently tossing seven shutout innings on Saturday against the D-backs.
The 34-year-old left-hander also laid down three sacrifice bunts in the 3-1 win.
"Sometimes he can do it all," shortstop Jimmy Rollins said of Lee. "Other times he just pitches. Tonight, he did it all."
A 12-year veteran, Lee is set to make his 289th Major League start on Friday after the Phillies enjoyed a day off Thursday. His opposition, 23-year-old left-hander Tony Cingrani, will be making his sixth start.
Cingrani recorded two wins in his first three starts, including a six-inning shutout against the Nationals at the end of April. He has yet to lose this season (2-0), but he went only four innings last Friday against the Brewers.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said he likes what he has seen from Cingrani, but said the pitcher often relies on the fastball, which is what got him into trouble against Milwaukee.
The young left-hander, who battled some soreness after his outing against the Brewers, said he feels "perfectly fine" and will be ready to go on Friday against a pitcher he watched as a kid.
"It should be good," Cingrani said. "I've got to use a lot of curveballs and indoor sliders. It should be fun. I'm excited to face Cliff Lee. He's why I run off and on the field, because Cliff Lee did that when I was growing up. I also like how he uses his fastball."
This could be the last start for Cingrani, who might be the odd man out and face a demotion once Johnny Cueto returns to the rotation Monday.
Phillies: Zambrano signs Minor League deal
With Roy Halladay's return this season in question after undergoing successful shoulder surgery on Wednesday, the Phillies needed starting pitching depth. They decided to fill that need on Wednesday by signing right-hander Carlos Zambrano to a Minor League contract.
Zambrano pitched last season for the Marlins, going 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA in 35 appearances, 20 of which were starts. He will report to extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla., and assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said "no promises were made" regarding Zambrano's future with the club.
"We got a feel for his desire to come back and his sincerity about that and what kind of condition he's had to put himself in," Proefrock said. "Again, it's a Minor League deal. It's not like we're signing him to a $90 million deal like the Cubs did."
• Closer Jonathan Papelbon enters the weekend series on a 15 2/3-inning scoreless streak. The right-hander has converted all seven of his save opportunities this season, and he is 6 1/3 innings shy of tying the longest scoreless streak of his career.
Reds: Team looks to improve away from home
The Reds' series in Philadelphia is part of a nine-game NL East road trip, which started this week in Miami, where Cincinnati swept the three-game tilt.
After leaving South Florida, the Reds will take on the Phillies and the Mets. Cincinnati began the trip with a 6-10 record away from Great American Ball Park, a mark that doesn't seem as bad when considering the Reds lost eight of their first nine road games.
• Brandon Phillips enjoyed a hot start to the Reds' road trip, going 5-for-13 with a home run and five RBIs in three games against the Marlins. The current Cincinnati second baseman also closed continued to close in on records set by former Red and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.
Phillips enters the weekend series against the Phillies one double shy of Morgan's record (220) by a Cincinnati second baseman. On Thursday, Phillips added another hit to make it 1,205 with the Reds, already more than Morgan in his time in Cincinnati. He also added a homer, leaving him three dingers and 15 RBIs short of matching Morgan's marks of 152 and 612, respectively, as a Red.
• The Phillies head into the weekend with a 3-8 record against the NL Central this season, including three losses to the Reds last month.
• The Reds are on a six-game winning streak, their longest of the season. They've won seven of their last eight games and sit a season-high nine games over .500 (25-16).
• With Thursday's win, Dusty Baker is now alone in fourth place in Reds history with 444 managerial wins, surpassing Fred Hutchinson.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.