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Rockies Open Second Half Against Surprising Cincinnati

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(Sports Network) - Two potential National League playoff teams square off tonight when the Cincinnati Reds host the Colorado Rockies in the opening contest of a three-game weekend series at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds enter the season's unofficial second half in first place in the NL Central, leading the defending division champion St. Louis Cardinals by a half-game.

Meanwhile, the Rockies are second in the NL West -- two games behind San Diego -- but lead the early-stage wild card race by a half-game over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Right-hander Bronson Arroyo gets the start for Cincinnati with a chance to reach double-digit wins for the fourth time in his fifth season with the Reds.

The Key West, Florida native, acquired from the Boston Red Sox for Wily Mo Pena prior to the 2006 season, was a 14-game winner for the Reds that year and won 15 apiece in both 2008 and 2009.

He got No. 9 of 2010 in his final start prior to the All-Star break, scattering seven hits and allowing one run in eight innings of a 3-1 defeat of the New York Mets on July 7.

He's won four of his last five decisions and has pitched at least seven innings in 10 of 18 starts.

Lifetime against Colorado, Arroyo is 1-2 in eight appearances with a 3.98 earned run average.

For the Rockies, towering righty Jason Hammel can extend an unbeaten streak that stretches back nearly two months.

The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder's last loss was May 21 at Kansas City, but since then he's gone 6-0 in nine starts while lowering his ERA from 7.52 after the Kansas City loss to 4.08 following a 4-2 win over San Diego in his last pre- break start on July 10.

A former draft pick of the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Hammel was sent to Colorado early in 2009 after losing a competition for the fifth starting slot to Jeff Niemann.

He thrived with the Rockies, however, winning 10 games and posting a 4.33 ERA in 176 2/3 innings over 34 appearances, including 30 starts.

He's been used exclusively as a starter in 2010 and has logged 90 1/3 innings thus far, allowing 97 hits, 41 earned runs and 24 walks with 72 strikeouts.

He's made one career start against the Reds and got a no-decision after allowing three hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts.

On Sunday in Denver, ex-Red Matt Belisle's two-run throwing error in the eighth put San Diego ahead for good and Everth Cabrera added a two-run homer in the ninth for insurance in a 9-7 Padres win to close a three-game series against the surging Rockies.

Carlos Gonzalez had a pair of RBI singles to score Jonathan Herrera, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a run-scoring triple while walking and scoring twice. Miguel Olivo went 3-for-4 with an RBI for Colorado, which finished up a 10-game homestand at 8-2.

In Philadelphia, Cole Hamels tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings, while Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge finished off the shutout and the Phillies' four-game sweep of Cincinnati with another 1-0 decision.

Matt Maloney (0-2) came up on the losing end despite a quality start. The former Phillies farmhand yielded one run on four hits and a walk in six innings for the Reds, who lost the first three games in the set in extra innings.

Cincinnati did not score in the final 21 innings in the series.

The Rockies won all seven games versus the Reds last year and have taken nine straight and 14 of the last 15 meetings between the teams.