A big rally on Sunday helped the Cincinnati Reds add to baseball's best record since the All-Star break.
A comeback might not be necessary on Monday afternoon with Cy Young Award candidate Johnny Cueto set to take the hill for the first of three straight games versus the Philadelphia Phillies.
Cueto is tied with three other pitchers for the major-league lead in victories this season and gets a chance today at becoming the first to reach 18 wins. He has won three straight decisions as well as eight of his past nine and is coming off a victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
The right-hander allowed two runs for a third straight outing, also scattering four hits and a walk with five strikeouts. He improved to 17-6 with an MLB- best 2.48 earned run average.
Cueto's previous career high for wins in a season was 12 in 2010, but he has emerged as one of the top hurlers in the league this season.
"Every time he goes out there we expect to win," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Cueto. "He doesn't want to give up anything, that's the kind of guys that we like to be around."
The 26-year-old is unbeaten over his last four outings, with the lone no- decision in that time coming on Aug. 23 against the Phillies.
In his shortest outing in 17 starts, Cueto yielded a pair of runs on five hits and three walks in a game his club eventually lost 4-3.
Cueto is a big reason the Reds own a 9 1/2-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. So are 37 comeback wins, with Cincinnati adding another in Sunday's 5-3 triumph over the Houston Astros.
All five runs for the Reds came in the eighth inning, when Jay Bruce hit a game-tying three-run homer before Chris Heisey and Miguel Cairo followed with run-scoring doubles.
"We looked bad for a while," Baker said. "We got some guys on base late and got some big hits."
Aroldis Chapman struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth to notch his 34th save of the season for Cincinnati, which is an MLB-leading 35-15 since the All Star break. Chapman's 26th straight save -- the most for a Reds reliever since Francisco Cordero's 29 in a row from 2008-09 -- gave his club its fifth win in six games.
Cincinnati begins a nine-game homestand, one that is likely to feature the return of first baseman and former NL MVP Joey Votto. The slugger is slated to make another rehab start today and hasn't played in the majors since July 15 due to left knee surgery.
The Phillies, meanwhile, look to rebound after their closer failed to hold a four-run lead on Sunday in an 8-7 defeat to the Atlanta Braves.
Jonathan Papelbon came into the ninth with one out and runners on first and second. He struck out pinch-hitter Lyle Overbay, but walked Michael Bourn before yielding a two-run double to Martin Prado.
Chipper Jones then smashed a walk-off, three-run homer to deny Philadelphia its fourth straight win and a three-game sweep.
"I wouldn't say it was a crushing loss. We've had a lot of losses this year," Papelbon said. "We've had a lot of chances to sweep teams and we haven't. It's one you have to put in the 'L' column and move on."
Cole Hamels started the game and yielded three runs over six innings while adding a two-run, ground-rule double.
It was Hamels' first start since Aug. 23 after he had a start skipped on Wednesday due to a stomach illness. Right-hander Tyler Cloyd replaced the 14- game winner on that day and makes the second start of his MLB career today.
Cloyd yielded three runs on seven hits, one a homer, and two walks while striking out five in a 3-2 loss to the New York Mets in his debut.
"I thought he did fine, kept the ball down, had good location," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "He gave us a chance to win the game. He looked in control and his command was good."
The 25-year-old joined the Phillies after going 15-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 26 minor league starts this season across Double- and Triple-A.
The Phillies have won 13 of their last 16 against the Reds, though the teams split a four-game set in Philadelphia last week.