Dominican righty Johnny Cueto targets his 20th win on Sunday when the Cincinnati Reds close out the season series with the Pittsburgh Pirates with the finale of a three-game set at PNC Park.
The 26-year-old got within a game of 20 victories in his last start on Sept. 25 against Milwaukee, scattering five hits and two runs in seven innings of a 4-2 victory at home in Cincinnati.
He was 17-6 in late August after defeating Arizona, but had a subsequent three-start stretch in which he lost to Philadelphia, Houston and Miami in succession while allowing 26 hits and 14 runs in 15 1/3 innings.
In two starts since - against the Brewers and the Chicago Cubs - he's allowed just two runs in 10 hits in 13 innings.
Cueto, who's frequently mentioned in National League Cy Young Award chatter with Washington's Gio Gonzalez and New York's R.A. Dickey - each of whom have reached 20 wins - entered this season with a career-high of 12 wins in 31 starts in 2010.
He's 12-4 in 18 lifetime meetings with Pittsburgh and won a 5-4 decision the last time he faced them on June 6 in Cincinnati.
The Reds are 21-11 in games he's pitched this season.
The Pirates oppose him with lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who appears for the 13th time in a Pittsburgh uniform after a midseason trade with Houston.
The 33-year-old Dominican was 7-9 in 21 starts with the Astros and has since gone 5-4 in 12 games - 11 starts - with his new team, including four consecutive victories across his last six starts since Aug. 29.
Rodriguez allowed three runs on four hits across six innings in his last start on Sept. 25 against the Mets in New York, winning a 10-6 decision.
He's 8-11 in 28 starts against the Reds, but got a no-decision on Sept. 10 in Cincinnati after allowing three runs and three hits in 6 2/3 innings.
The Reds won the game, 4-3.
Pittsburgh is 6-6 in the 12 games he's pitched since the trade. Houston was 7-14 in the 21 starts he made before the deal.
On Saturday, Andrew McCutchen hit a game-winning solo homer in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Pirates downed the Reds, 2-1.
After Josh Harrison lined out to center field to start the frame, McCutchen, who was 0-for-4 prior to his final at-bat, smacked a 2-2 fastball off Jonathan Broxton (3-2) into the right-center field seats.
Joel Hanrahan (5-1) worked a scoreless ninth to pick up the win.
"(McCutchen) shows up every day and leads by example," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "When he's not performing to the level that he thinks he can, he takes it personal. He's been our best player most of the season."
Pittsburgh starter Kyle McPherson tossed six scoreless frames. He fanned five, scattered four hits and walked one for the Pirates, who had lost nine of their previous 11 contests.
Mike Leake started the game for Cincinnati and also fired six scoreless innings. He struck out three, surrendered four hits and walked three for the Reds, who are one game behind the Washington Nationals for the best record in the National League.
"I hope we stay in it the whole time so I can have a significant role in it," Leake said. "As a player, you always want to win and the playoffs is the time to do it."
The Reds won nine of the initial 15 games between the teams in 2012, including a sweep of a three-game set in Cincinnati from Sept. 10-12.