|Lopez returns as Marlins welcome Reds|
Miami Marlins right-hander Pablo Lopez, who has been out since June 15 due to strained right shoulder, will return to the rotation on Monday night when the Cincinnati Reds visit.
Caleb Smith and Sandy Alcantara, who were supposed to pitch Monday and Tuesday, respectively, will each push back one day to make room for Lopez, a 23-year-old native of Venezuela.
"It feels like forever since I've been on this (Marlins Park) mound," Lopez, who is 5-5 with a 4.23 ERA this year in 14 major league starts, told reporters. "I'm really excited."
Lopez is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in his one start against the Reds this year, but that was on the road. On April 11, host Cincinnati battered Lopez for seven hits and four runs in 4 2/3 innings.
But the Reds have yet to face Lopez at Marlins Park, where he is 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA in seven starts this year.
Lopez was on a good roll when he got hurt, going 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three June starts, so it will be interesting to see if he can regain that form. When he's right, he throws a heavy sinker that produces ground balls and broken bats.
The Reds will counter Lopez with right-hander Sonny Gray (9-6, 2.92 ERA). Gray has been brilliant in his past 10 starts, going 6-1 with a 1.58 ERA. He had a 23-inning scoreless streak during that span, although that is no longer active.
However, Gray impressed the San Diego Padres after beating them 3-2 last Tuesday.
"His command, especially into left-handed hitters, is something you don't see too often," Padres manager Andy Green said.
Gray, 29, has had a fairly distinguished career since he was the Oakland Athletics' first-round pick (18th overall) in 2011, out of Vanderbilt. The Nashville native made his major league debut two years later, and his career record is 68-58 with a 3.56 ERA.
But Gray suffered through a 4.90 ERA last year in 30 appearances, including 23 starts, for the New York Yankees. The Yankees traded Gray to the Reds this past January, and Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract extension. Gray has since justified Cincinnati's faith, making the All-Star Game.
Gray has a mixed history against the Marlins. In three career appearances against them, he is 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA. But he is 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA in one career start at Marlins Park.
As for the Marlins and Reds overall, Cincinnati just got swept in a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have the second-worst record in the National League. Now the Reds face the Marlins, who have the worst record in the NL.
However, Miami is coming off a strong series, taking two of three games from the Philadelphia Phillies, including a 19-11 win on Friday in which it overcame a 7-0 deficit. On Sunday, Marlins third baseman Starlin Castro hit the go-ahead, two-run double in the sixth inning, leading to a 3-2 Miami win.
Since July 1, Castro is hitting .314 with 11 doubles, eight homers and 34 RBIs. He hit just .245 in the first half of the season.
The Reds may be getting a key player back on Monday as center fielder Nick Senzel (sore right thumb) missed his second straight start on Sunday but did get in as a pinch hitter.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto (back injury) took fielding practice on Sunday but is not expected back quite yet.
--Field Level Media