The Dodgers have a comfortable lead in the National League West with more than three weeks remaining in the regular season, so they are not taking any chances when it comes to the health of their players as they gear up for the postseason.
The Dodgers scratched Hyun-Jin Ryu from his Friday start against the Reds due to a stiff back and will instead send Chris Capuano to the mound for the opener of a three-game series in Cincinnati.
The Reds, meanwhile, enter the series after taking three of four against the NL Central-rival Cardinals, moving them to within three games of the division-leading Pirates and just 1 1/2 of the Cards. Cincinnati, winner of five of the last eight, has a seven-game cushion as the second NL Wild Card and some momentum heading into September.
The Dodgers are two games behind the Braves for the best record in the NL, but manager Don Mattingly doesn't believe the reward of home-field advantage in the postseason is worth the risk of pushing his players too hard in pursuit of Atlanta.
"We're trying to win every day," Mattingly said. "But I wouldn't pitch [Clayton] Kershaw or [Zack] Greinke on short rest to do it. I wouldn't play Hanley [Ramirez] with a [hamstring issue] to do it."
Not only has Ryu's start been pushed back, Yasiel Puig is dealing with discomfort behind his right knee. The rookie outfielder has not started since exiting Monday's game in the sixth inning. He pinch-hit on Wednesday, though, and could return to the lineup against the Reds since the Dodgers were off on Thursday.
Right-hander Mike Leake will start for the Reds in the opener, looking to rebound from a string of forgettable outings. He has a 7.22 ERA over his past six starts, during which the Reds are 2-4.
Leake was charged with six runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings his last time out, against the Rockies. He has not faced the Dodgers this year.
Dodgers: Young contributing since trade
Veteran infielder Michael Young has provided the Dodgers with a reliable bat and versatility across the infield, which is exactly what the club envisioned when they acquired him in a trade with the Phillies on Saturday.
Young started at third base on Tuesday, as he was a better matchup than Juan Uribe against Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin. On Wednesday, Young spelled Adrian Gonzalez at first base, had three hits and drove in two runs. In three games with the Dodgers, he is 4-for-11.
• Capuano had one of his best starts of the season his last time out, tossing seven innings of one-run ball against the Padres on Saturday. The Dodgers are 8-1 in his past nine starts. He faced the Reds at home on July 28 and fired 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, striking out four and walking none.
Reds: Cozart swinging hot bat
Shortstop Zack Cozart extended his hitting streak to 10 games on Thursday, going 1-for-4 in the 6-2 win over the Cardinals.
Cozart has provided a spark at the bottom of the lineup over the past two weeks, and is batting .367 with three extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and 10 runs scored in his last 15 games. During that time he has raised his average from .236 to .252, a season high.
"Obviously, you want to play well and help the team win," Cozart said. "There were certain times early in the year where I didn't feel like I was doing my part. At the end of the day, you just want to go home knowing that at some point, somehow in the game, whether it's offense or defense, you helped the team win."
• Catcher Devin Mesoraco was on the sidelines again on Thursday, with Ryan Hanigan making his third start, and Mesoraco revealed that he has been dealing with a hamstring issue since last weekend.
"I don't know he'll be all right by the end of the season," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "But I hope he's better."
• Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier is 5-for-9 in his career against Leake, with two homers and five RBIs.
• Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is 14-for-35 lifetime against Capuano, with four doubles, one homer and four RBIs, though his status for the opener is in question after he sustained a contusion to his quad turning a double play on Thursday.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.