After winning just three times in their first 25 games, the Cincinnati Reds are suddenly playing with confidence as they host the San Francisco Giants in the finale of the three-game series Sunday.

Aristides Aquino recorded his fifth outfield assist to end Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Giants, Cincinnati’s fourth straight. After a 5-4 road trip through Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Toronto, the Reds secured a winning record on their seven-game homestand.

The Giants, on the other hand, are struggling, having dropped nine of 13 and the first two on a 10-game road trip.

Reds outfielder Tommy Pham will be serving the third and final game of his MLB suspension for slapping Joc Pederson in the face in the outfield during batting practice before Friday’s game. Pham said the dustup concerned transactions in a fantasy football league last year and a group chat about Pham’s former team, the Padres.

“I slapped Joc. He said some (stuff) I don’t condone,” Pham admitted Saturday. “I had to address it. It was regarding my former team. I didn’t like that, and I didn’t like the sketchy (stuff) going on in the fantasy (league). We had too much money on the line, so I look at it like there’s a code. You’re (messing) with my money, then you’re going to say some disrespectful (stuff). There’s a code to this.”

Giants manager Gabe Kapler said he was happy Pederson didn’t escalate the matter, allowing the team to have his services over the weekend.

“Joc has handled it very well,” Kapler said. “We can always talk about being non-reactionary. He was able to manage everything that happened.”

Alex Cobb (3-2, 6.25) heads to the mound in the second game of the series. The 34-year-old veteran makes his eighth start of the season, looking to put his last two starts behind him.

In his start on May 17 at Colorado, Cobb was hit hard for seven earned runs on 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings. But he still earned the victory as San Francisco’s bats came alive in a 10-7 win. He wasn’t as fortunate last Monday as the Mets tagged him for six earned runs on 10 hits over six innings in San Francisco’s 13-3 loss.

Cobb is making just his third career start against the Reds, a team he has dominated in his two previous outings. Cobb is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA, allowing just two runs on 12 hits over 14 innings, striking out 11 and walking just two.

The Reds counter with right-hander Tyler Mahle (2-5, 6.32). After back-to-back quality starts, Mahle was tagged for a career-high eight runs on nine hits in just four-plus innings against the Cubs in Tuesday’s 11-4 loss.

“We’ve certainly seen Tyler much better than that,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He was still competing. You’re going to have nights like that where you can’t find it as far as making the pitches the way you want to, having the velocity that he typically has. You’re going to go through stages in the season where you’re just a little bit more fatigued or whatever the case.”

Mahle will have to solve the Giants, a franchise that has given him fits over his career. Mahle is 0-3 with a 9.18 ERA in four starts, including May 20, 2021, when Mahle was charged with seven runs on seven hits in just two innings of a 19-4 San Francisco win.

–Field Level Media