Skidding Reds return home to battle Nationals

( - Perhaps a return home will get the Cincinnati Reds going. The Reds try to put the brakes on a six-game losing streak Friday when they open a three-game series with the Washington Nationals at Great American Ball Park.

Cincinnati was just 1 1/2 games out of first place the National League Central heading into the All-Star break, but it hasn't won since the layover, as it was swept by the New York Yankees coming out of the break then followed that up by losing three in a row to division-leading Milwaukee to fall six games off the pace.

The Reds haven't lost seven in a row since an eight-game slide July 28-Aug. 4, 2009.

"Believe it or not, I've been part of worse. I've been doing this a long time," said Reds manager Bryan Price. "I think anyone who watched the six games on this road trip knows we just weren't playing the way we were leading into the break."

Cincinnati, which has scored 12 runs over the losing streak, now returns home for six games and will hand the ball on Friday to righty Alfredo Simon, who is 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA, but is coming off his first loss in seven decisions his last time out.

He fell to the Yankees on Saturday, as he allowed four runs (2 earned) and five hits in five innings.

Simon has faced the Nats 11 times (1 start) and is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA against them.

Washington, meanwhile, will counter with righty Tanner Roark, who is 9-6 with a 2.91 ERA. Roark won for the sixth time in eight starts on Saturday, as he held Milwaukee to a run and six hits over seven innings. His nine wins lead the team.

The Nationals have scored in the first in seven of his last eight outings, totaling 18 runs, and managed to push five across in the first inning against the Brewers.

"It's a lot weight off my shoulders whenever we get five runs in the first," said Roark.

Roark lost his only other start against the Reds, but pitched well, giving up just an earned run in six innings.

Washington had a four-game winning streak stopped on Wednesday with a 6-4 loss in Colorado. The Nats, though, still hold a 1 1/2-game edge on the Atlanta Braves atop the NL East.

Cincinnati took two of three from the Nats earlier this season.