Coming off a split of a doubleheader with the Chicago Cubs, the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds target a series triumph this afternoon in the finale of a four-game set from Great American Ball Park.
The Reds won the opener of the day/night twinbill by a 5-3 score, but dropped a 9-7 decision in the nightcap. Johnny Cueto won his major league-leading 16th game of the season early on by striking out eight and walking nine in eight innings. He allowed two runs and allowed just three hits.
"Johnny settled down. In the past, Johnny might have been bothered by the first-inning homer," said Reds manager Dusty Baker. "He settled down and acted like it was no big deal."
Cueto retired 19 of the last 20 batters he faced and is tied with Tampa Bay's David price for the league lead in wins.
Todd Frazier, Xavier Paul and Miguel Cairo all homered in that one for the Reds.
Todd Redmond made his major league debut for Cincinnati in the second game and was drilled for four runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings. Ryan Ludwick homered twice for the Reds, who are 6 1/2 games ahead of Pittsburgh for the division lead and had won seven of eight games.
"It was a big game, Ryan's feeling it, he's swinging, he wants it," Baker said of Ludwick.
Cincinnati will visit Philadelphia for four games after this set.
The Reds hope Mat Latos can keep his unbeaten streak intact when he toes the rubber Sunday afternoon. Latos is 3-0 with a 1.31 earned run average in his last five starts and hasn't recorded a decision in consecutive trips to the mound. In a 3-0 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday. Latos fired seven scoreless innings to remain at 10-3 in 24 starts with a 3.63 ERA.
Latos, a right-hander, has allowed only one run over his past three trips to the hill and also has pitched well at home, going 6-2 in 13 tries. He is 2-2 with a 3.47 ERA in four career starts against the Cubs.
Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija suffered the loss in the first game and allowed four runs in five innings. Alfonso Soriano homered and became the 274th player in league history to record 1,000 RBI.
"I feel great," Soriano said. "I'm so proud to get 1,000 RBI. Most of my career I batted leadoff, so to have 1,000 RBI that's a lot. I'm very proud of myself."
Brett Jackson and David DeJesus each hit a home run in the nightcap, while Brooks Raley recorded the win even though he allowed four runs -- three earned -- in 5 1/3 innings. Carlos Marmol fanned two batters in the ninth for his 15th save.
Starlin Castro had three hits, two RBI and a run scored for the Cubs, winners in just four of their last 18 tries.
"He came up huge again. We found a slot for him at cleanup...he cuts and slashes," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Castro.
Chris Volstad's first season with the Cubs hasn't gone quite as planned. He is 0-9 with a 6.96 earned run average in 12 starts and hopes to crack the win column today against the Reds.
Volstad, who hasn't prevailed since last July 10 versus Houston as a member of the Marlins, took the loss in a 10-1 defeat against the Astros on Tuesday and allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings. The right-hander is 0-1 in two starts against Cincinnati this season and 1-3 with a 5.16 ERA in five career starts in this series.
The Reds, who won Friday's opener by a 7-3 score, are 8-4 versus Chicago this season.