Joey Votto has been productive since a return from injury - and his Cincinnati Reds teammates are flourishing as well.
Surging Cincinnati looks to return to the .500 mark for the first time in nearly two months Wednesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
With Votto sidelined due to a strained left quadriceps from May 16-June 9, the Reds (34-35) were 11-12, batting .223 while averaging 3.1 runs per game. They've won five of seven with him back in the lineup while batting .294 and averaging 5.3 runs.
Votto is hitting .357 since returning with seven RBIs, though Todd Frazier was the difference-maker in Cincinnati's 6-5 victory Tuesday. Frazier hit his team-leading 16th homer off closer Jason Grilli in the ninth to put the Reds ahead. He has three homers and eight RBIs over his last five games, while Billy Hamilton is 12 for 26 over his last seven.
The continuity granted by Votto's return seems to be breeding success for Cincinnati.
"We're not running out a bunch of different lineups out there," manager Bryan Price told the team's official website. "...And I think there is something to be said about knowing what is expected from you and knowing when you're going to be in there and when you're not."
Price figures to like penciling starter Alfredo Simon (9-3, 2.95 ERA) into Wednesday's lineup after he matched a career high by going eight innings in Thursday's 4-1 win over the Dodgers. Simon allowed seven hits - all singles - and the lone run.
He had completed at least seven innings just seven times in 19 career starts entering this season before doing so six times this year.
"What he's doing that's most surprising to me is pitching effectively into the seventh and eighth innings," Price said. "He's pitching deep into games and continuing to stay aggressive with his stuff."
Simon is 6-1 with a 2.44 ERA in seven road starts, including a 5-2 win at Pittsburgh on April 23 when he yielded two runs - one on a homer by Andrew McCutchen - over 6 2-3 innings with a career-high five walks. He had been 0-2 with a 1.54 ERA over six relief appearances against the Pirates in his career.
McCutchen failed to become the fifth player in club history and first since 1971 with nine straight multihit games, settling for a 1-for-4 performance to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. The Pirates (34-36) have dropped back-to-back games after winning four in a row. They haven't lost three straight since May 15-18.
Edinson Volquez (4-5, 3.89) will get the nod against his former team. He's 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA over his last five starts and comes off an impressive outing, throwing seven innings in a 4-0 victory over the Cubs on Thursday.
Volquez is 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts against the club he pitched for from 2008-2011, including a 4-1 loss on April 22 when he gave up two runs in seven innings. He was 30-18 with a 4.17 ERA in 74 games for the Reds.
Former teammate Jay Bruce is 5 for 10 against him with a double and a homer.
Starling Marte, who is hitting .459 during an eight-game hitting streak, is 4 for 10 off Simon.
Cincinnati has won six of the last seven meetings overall and four straight in Pittsburgh.