Madison Bumgarner has been magnificent on the road so far in 2014, posting a 1.59 ERA in seven starts away from AT&T Park. He'd like to continue that success in a ballpark he had trouble in during his only career start there.
The southpaw is scheduled to take the mound at Great American Ball Park on Thursday afternoon in the Giants' series finale with the Reds, and Bumgarner would like to perform well enough to erase memories of his July 2011 outing, when he gave up seven runs (five earned) on seven hits in four innings.
Bumgarner is feeling good going into Thursday's start, on a five-game win streak to match the longest of his career. In his last six starts, he has posted a 2.08 ERA (nine earned runs in 39 innings) with 48 strikeouts.
"The last two starts I felt really good," Bumgarner said after being named the National League Pitcher of the Month for May. "... I feel like I'm always concentrating on trying to get better and working on stuff. I'm glad to see it paying off."
Bumgarner is scheduled to be opposed by a right-hander that has also been pitching well as of late and who is looking for more run support as the Reds' offense has begun to turn things around recently.
Cincinnati has averaged 3.09 runs per game when Mike Leake has been on the mound, though they did score six runs to help the right-hander earn the victory in his start against the D-backs in Arizona on Friday.
"It definitely helped me relax a little bit and allowed me to attack their hitters a little more," Leake said of having a lead in that outing.
Leake hopes to continue what has been an excellent run over his last four outings against the Giants, as he is 4-0 with a 0.92 ERA and a complete game against San Francisco in that stretch.
Giants: Lopez notes Hamilton gives pitchers fits
Left-handed reliever Javier Lopez said Wednesday that he's very impressed with what he's seen from speedy Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton.
"These guys aren't just a threat to steal second base, but also third," Lopez said, noting that pitchers try to disrupt the attempts of baserunners like Hamilton to figure out a pitcher's timing by varying their looks and pace. The problem, though, as Lopez put it, is that "all of us [pitchers] tend to get into a rhythm."
In Tuesday's 8-3 Reds win, Giants starter Tim Lincecum caught Hamilton breaking for third, and when Hamilton started back toward second, Lincecum threw the ball into center field. In Wednesday's 3-2 Reds loss, Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong threw the ball into foul territory down the right-field line on a pickoff attempt with Hamilton on first.
Reds: For Hoover, it's all about mechanics
Manager Bryan Price said Wednesday that right-handed reliever J.J. Hoover's recent success is the result of sound mechanics.
Following a rocky start to the season, Hoover has yielded one run over his last nine appearances, covering a span of 13 innings.
"Mechanically, there's no doubt, he spins off and you'll see where his misses are typically to the glove side pulled up and away, or away to a right-handed hitter," Price said. "And that is a mechanical thing; it's not mental or it's not that he's scared. He's a guy that always challenges hitters. So if you see Hoov and he's not sharp, it's always mechanical.
"... When he would struggle at times last year, he'd just pull that front shoulder out so quickly that it just carries the ball to that side of the plate. So not only does he walk guys, but he's making a lot of mistake pitches around the plate when he's in the zone and they get hit. So it's a combination factor."
• Giants center fielder Angel Pagan, right fielder Hunter Pence, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and catcher Buster Posey have all had success at the plate against Leake.
Including postseason play, Pagan is 4-for-8 with two doubles, a home run and two RBIs against the right-hander. Pence is 10-for-24 (.417) with two doubles, a homer and three RBIs. Sandoval is 9-for-16 (.563) with three doubles, two homers and three RBIs. Posey is 4-for-10 with a homer and three RBIs.
• The Reds entered Wednesday night's contest against the Giants hitting .232 in 36 night games this season, but Cincinnati's team batting average is 16 points higher in contests played during the day (.258 in 20 games).
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.