Reds-Padres Preview

GAME: Cincinnati Reds (46-58) at San Diego Padres (51-53).

TIME: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EDT.

The San Diego Padres' big cushion atop the NL West division is down to a thin margin.

The Padres will try to stay in first place and avoid being swept at home in a three-game series by the Cincinnati Reds for the first time in more than nine years when the teams meet at Petco Park.

San Diego led second-place Arizona by 6 1/2 games in the NL West race after beating the Diamondbacks on July 16. The Padres have dropped 11 out of 12 games since to see their lead shrink to one game.

A loss Sunday and a win by Arizona over the Chicago Cubs would create a virtual tie atop the West.

Cincinnati is seeking its first sweep at San Diego since winning three games at Qualcomm Stadium from June 10-12, 1996. The Reds won their fourth straight, 9-1 on Saturday.

Aaron Harang, a San Diego native, improved to 3-0 in his career against the Padres by limiting them to one run and seven hits over eight innings Saturday. Javier Valentin homered and drove in three runs as the Reds improved to 11-5 since the All-Star break.

San Diego will turn to Woody Williams, who is 0-2 with a 7.13 ERA over his last three starts. Williams surrendered four runs and nine hits over six innings in a 4-2 loss to St. Louis on Tuesday.

The veteran right-hander is 8-4 with a 5.01 ERA in 18 career starts against Cincinnati. Williams went 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in six starts against the Reds last season with St. Louis.

Cincinnati addressed the situation involving disgruntled veteran Rich Aurilia on Saturday. The infielder said that he would ask for a trade after he was not in the lineup Friday.

Aurilia, who started at second base Saturday, has been splitting time with Ryan Freel. He claims he was promised the regular shortstop job.

''Richie is going to have to stay in more of a utility role,'' Cincinnati manager Jerry Narron said. ''If he's willing to do that in a positive frame of mind, he can help us a great deal.''

STANDINGS: Reds - 5th place, 19 1/2 GB, NL Central. Padres - 1st place, NL West.

REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Eric Milton (4-11, 7.03 ERA). Milton is 1-7 with an 8.40 ERA in 10 road starts. The veteran left-hander gave up four runs and five hits over six innings and took the loss, 7-4 at Los Angeles on Tuesday. Milton gave up five runs and seven hits over five innings in a 7-5 win at San Diego on Aug. 4, 2004 with Philadelphia in his lone career outing against the Padres.

PADRES PROBABLE STARTER: Williams (5-7, 4.66 ERA). Opponents are batting .301 against Williams in his last five outings.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Reds - Sean Casey, .307 avg.; Adam Dunn, 30 HRs and 74 runs; Ken Griffey Jr., 71 RBIs; Freel, 28 SBs. Padres - Brian Giles, .293 avg., 56 RBIs and 61 runs; Ryan Klesko, 16 HRs; Dave Roberts, 17 SBs.


STREAKS AND NOTES: Reds - Cincinnati has 71 RBIs by its catchers to lead the NL. ... OF Dunn is batting .229 (8-for-35) career against RHP Williams. ... 3B Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .500 (8-for-16) over his last four games. Padres - OF Giles is batting .143 (3-for-21) over the last seven games. ... 1B Robert Fick is hitting .167 (2-for-12) career against LHP Milton. ... RHP Akinori Otsuka has not allowed a run over his last 11 appearances over 11 2-3 innings.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Reds - 15-33 on the road; Padres - 30-22 at home.

INJURIES: Reds - RHP Ryan Wagner (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Jung Keun Bong (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Paul Wilson (shoulder), 60-day DL; INF Luis Lopez (hamstring), 60-day DL. Padres - C Ramon Hernandez (wrist), 15-day DL; LHP Chris Hammond (neck), 15-day DL; RHP Adam Eaton (finger), 15-day DL; RHP Rudy Seanez (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Freddy Guzman (elbow), 60-day DL.