Yes, I know its early - but I'm headed out to Coors field to see our favorite team! And since its against the Rockies, and I'm local, I wanted to start a game thread this year... I'll be back after the game to give everyone my thoughts/impressions/report...

Preview:

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/preview?gid=260503127

Game Info: 8:35 pm EDT Wed May 3, 2006
TV: FSOH, FSRM
Add to Calendar | Buy Tickets Currently: Denver, CO
Temp: 52 F

Starting Pitchers
B. Claussen Cin vs.
J. Francis Col

2-2 Record 0-2
6.04 ERA 4.50
20 K 26
12 BB 18
6 HR 4

By NICOLINO DI BENEDETTO, STATS Writer

The surprising Cincinnati Reds have scored the most runs in the National League. Nothing like playing in a hitters' ballpark to improve that number.

Cincinnati takes baseball's best record into Coors Field on Wednesday in the start of a two-game set with the Colorado Rockies.

The Reds (19-8) have won eight of their last nine games to move into first place in the NL Central. They have outscored opponents 48-20 over that stretch and lead the NL with 158 runs scored.

After 28 games in 2005, Cincinnati was 10-18 and plated just 118 runs.

"We can play with anybody. If we continue to play the way we're playing now, we're going to be there," Reds catcher Javier Valentin said regarding a possible playoff run.

Valentin drove in the winning run with a pinch single in the bottom of the ninth to give Cincinnati a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday.

Brandon Claussen (2-2, 6.04 ERA) will try to keep the momentum going for the Reds as he takes the mound in the series opener. He is looking to build on a successful outing on Friday when he gave up two runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-4 win over the Houston Astros.

The left-hander has struggled with consistency recently. He threw seven shutout innings on April 17 in a 9-1 win over Florida, but gave up 11 hits -- including four homers -- five days later in an 11-0 loss to Milwaukee.

Claussen is 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA and with an opponents' batting average of .319 in two career starts at Coors Field.

The Reds continue to be without Ken Griffey Jr., who is expected to miss this series. Griffey has not played since April 12 after suffering a strained tendon in his right knee, but may be back for the Reds' weekend series with Arizona.

"He hasn't had a setback," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He's just hasn't gotten to the point where he feels like he can play."

The Rockies (15-12) return home after a 5-4 road trip, and are looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season. Reliever Ray King gave up an RBI single in the eighth inning to Marcus Giles in Colorado's 5-4 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday.

Still, manager Clint Hurdle was pleased.

"There's years when we'd have given body parts for 5-4 road trips," he said.

Jeff Francis (0-2, 4.50 ERA) will toe the rubber as he tries to halt the skid as he tried again to win his first games.

The left-hander did not factor in the decision of his last two starts, despite quality performances. Francis allowed two runs and seven hits and struck out 10 in 12 innings, but received only four runs of support in his previous two outings.

He has lost four consecutive decisions with a 10.42 ERA at Coors Field and last won there on July 31, a span of seven starts. Francis was 10-2 with a 3.43 ERA in 13 starts before that.

Brad Hawpe batted .441 (15-for-34) with three home runs and five RBIs during the nine-game road trip. He is hitting just .279 (12-for-43) with one homer and four RBIs in 12 home games this season.