Todd Benzinger is one Dodger who came to Cincinnati this week expecting to face the same kind of contender he saw in Atlanta.
What he found, he said, is a team that could be wilting under the heat administered by Manager Lou Piniella.
"The Reds look flat, like they are in the same position we are in," Benzinger said. "During times like these, having Lou there doesn't help much, either."
Benzinger, who played 1 1/2 seasons for him, emphasized that he thinks Piniella is a "pretty good" manager, but added: "He's not the greatest guy to have around during a losing streak. He is not one to pump up the guys after a few losses."
During the Reds' World Series championship season in 1990, Benzinger remembers Piniella scolding the team during a losing streak.
"He was actually screaming at us while telling us to relax," he said. "Veins were popping out of his neck and everything. We couldn't focus on what he was saying, all we could do was look at him. All players don't respond well to that."
The Dodgers' Eric Karros is leading the major leagues in runs batted in since the All-Star break with 29. . . . Pedro Astacio, as expected, was recalled from triple-A Albuquerque after Wednesday's game and will start against the Reds in the series finale today. Astacio is 1-1 with a 1.69 earned-run average in two major league starts earlier this year. He threw a three-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies in his debut July 3. . . . Kip Gross was sent down for the third time this season after throwing a scoreless inning Wednesday. He has spent a total of 21 days in his three stints in the major leagues this season.