Both clubs enter the series after a day off Monday to savor much-needed wins on Sunday that went a big way toward keeping them within striking distance of their division leaders.
The Reds had lost nine of 11 since the Aug. 1 MLB trade deadline heading into the second game of Sunday's doubleheader against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. They dropped the first game Sunday, 4-2, after blowing a 2-0 lead on a three-run, pinch-hit homer by Jared Triolo, his first in the major leagues.
Cincinnati appeared on its way to losing another game to the Pirates before rallying from a 5-3 deficit in the eighth inning of Game 2 and winning it, 6-5, in 10 innings. Reds manager David Bell used six relievers and every position player to record the win.
The win gave the Reds just their second series win since July 28-30 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers and put them at 62 wins on the season, matching their total from 2022.
"We have a long way to go. Our goal is to get a lot more wins," Bell said. "(Game 2) was just a game where we were absolutely grinding it out and found a way to win. It took everyone. Everyone contributed. Rarely is it easy or pretty and (Sunday) was a grind. That's what it takes. Because of that, it was an even better win."
Reds rookie phenom Elly De La Cruz homered and went 2-for-5 in the nightcap Sunday.
"Like I've always said, this team never gives up. It's always up until the end, up until the last moments of the game," De La Cruz said.
The Guardians, trying to catch Minnesota in the American League Central, needed a win Sunday just as badly. Cleveland batters were hitting .199 and held to single-digit hits in each of their 13 games prior to a series at Tampa Bay over the weekend.
But in the three-game series, they managed to score 22 runs on 38 hits despite losing two of three. On Sunday, Cleveland had 15 hits in a 9-2 win over the Rays despite not having star slugger Jose Ramirez, who was suspended for the final two games of the series, and Josh Naylor, who is out with an oblique injury.
"Obviously, those are the stars of our team, and we need them in order to make any deep runs," outfielder Steven Kwan said, "but to be able to do it without them is really confidence-building and big for the young guys."
"We really needed it," Cleveland second baseman Andres Gimenez said. "It was kind of like that confidence booster for the offense to get this type of weekend."
Kwan and Gimenez combined for 14 hits in 29 at-bats over the three-game series.
The Reds will start right-hander Graham Ashcraft (6-7, 4.95 ERA) in the opener of the two-game set. Ashcraft is making his 23rd start of the season and is coming off a dominating performance in his most recent start — a one-run, three-hit outing on Wednesday against the Miami Marlins. He didn't figure into the decision.
He has never faced the Guardians.
Ashcraft will be opposed by rookie left-hander Logan Allen (5-5, 3.55), who will be making his 18th start of the season but his first appearance against Cincinnati.
—Field Level Media