Washington Nationals (56-44) at Cincinnati Reds (51-51), 4:05 p.m. (ET)
07/25/2014 10:45 AM
07/26/2014 10:35 AM
(SportsNetwork.com) - If not Johnny Cueto, then who for the Cincinnati Reds?
The reeling Reds, losers of seven straight games since the All-Star break, turn to their Dominican-born ace to end the skid on Saturday afternoon, when they host the Washington Nationals in game two of a three-game weekend series at Great American Ball Park.
Cincinnati won seven of nine games before the break to close within 1 1/2 games of the lead in the National League's Central Division, but has subsequently been swept by the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers before dropping the opener of the series with the Nationals on Friday, 4-1.
The most recent loss dropped the Reds to .500 for the first time since late June, and another loss will mean the team's first eight-game losing streak since 2009.
Cincinnati has scored only 13 runs in the seven-game slide.
"It's just really a mental game," manager Bryan Price said. "When we were going good before the break, nobody was pressing. Now, everybody's pressing."
Cueto has been superb throughout the season and is 5-1 in his last eight starts. His strikeout and earned run average numbers -- 148 and 2.18 -- are among the best in the major leagues, and his opposition batting average (.184) is No. 1 overall.
Still, he was dinged for two runs and walked four batters in five innings and got a no decision in the Reds' 3-2 loss to the Yankees on Sunday. It was only the third time this season in which Cueto failed to last six innings.
He's 7-3 with a 1.93 ERA over 11 home starts in 2014 and 3-1 with a 5.34 ERA in five career meetings with the Nationals in Cincinnati. He was a 9-4 loser, however, when the Reds visited Washington in May.
Nationals leadoff man Denard Span had three hits in that game and four in Friday's series opener.
"He's been great," manager Matt Williams said. "The key for him is hitting the ball back through the middle."
Washington is 2 1/2 games ahead of second-place Atlanta in the NL's East Division, and starter Gio Gonzalez gets a chance for redemption after tossing just 3 1/3 innings on Sunday against Milwaukee, in his first start after the All-Star break.
"It's one of those games where you have to brush under the rug," the left- hander said. "Nine days off, it didn't help."
In four career meetings with the Reds, he's 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA. In one career start at Great American Ball Park in 2012, he gave up two runs in five innings of a 7-3 win.
Cincinnati took two of three from the Nats earlier this season.
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