The Cincinnati Reds feel like they're another step closer to being fully healthy and another step closer to resembling the team that has reached the playoffs each of the last two years.
They face a difficult challenge Thursday, however, against Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Plagued by injuries for much of the first half of the season, Cincinnati (30-34) has struggled to score runs - its 221 for the year rank ahead of only San Diego in the majors. But when the Reds have found a way to scratch out four in a game, the results have generally been positive.
That was the case in Wednesday's 5-0 victory in which the Reds backed a 12-strikeout effort from Johnny Cueto with some clutch hitting - going 3 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Joey Votto had a two-run double and both Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce each contributed two hits and an RBI.
''We have a history here,'' manager Bryan Price said after his team won its eighth straight game scoring at least four runs and improved to 23-8 in such instances. ''We have a real good understanding that we have players who have accomplished things at a high level here. You saw some of that tonight. Hopefully, it'll be a precursor to good things.''
Having Votto and Bruce back in the heart of the lineup also helps. Votto's hit capped a three-run third, and he enters this contest 8 for 21 with three solo homers against Greinke (8-2, 2.62 ERA).
Bruce, who had a solo homer Wednesday, has not had as much success, going 5 for 28 with eight strikeouts.
Greinke is enduring his worst stretch of the season, going 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA while giving up 11 runs over his last three starts. The right-hander still battled deep Saturday in Colorado, giving up a season high-tying four runs and a season-worst 11 hits in seven innings of a 5-4, 10-inning defeat.
"I pitched all right, but not making enough really good pitches was the key," said Greinke, who had conceded only 16 runs in his first 10 outings, to the team's official website.
He improved to 5-1 versus the Reds on May 27, matching a season high with 11 strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings as Los Angeles (35-32) won 5-3. He has struck out 76 in 62 2-3 innings over nine outings against Cincinnati.
Trying to salvage a split of this four-game set and 10-game homestand, Cincinnati turns to Alfredo Simon, (8-3, 3.15). He was erratic in the loss to Greinke, giving up five runs and five hits while walking four in 3 2-3 innings.
Simon has regrouped to win both starts since and limited Philadelphia to three runs - all scoring on two home runs - and seven hits in six innings of a 6-5 win Saturday. The right-hander, however, has struggled to keep the ball down and has given up nine homers in his last seven starts.
Andre Ethier made the most of his two at-bats against Simon last month with a triple and a homer and is 6 for 17 while hitting safely over his last four games.
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez likely will miss a second straight game due to shoulder stiffness. Los Angeles is 4-2 heading into the final contest of a seven-game road trip.