Monday, July 23, 2012

Cincinnati Reds (55-40) at Houston Astros (34-62), 8:05 pm (ET) -

Cincinnati right-hander Mat Latos tries to begin another win streak tonight when the Reds visit the Houston Astros in the first of three games at Minute Maid Park.

An offseason acquisition from San Diego in a trade that sent former staff ace Edinson Volquez to the Padres, Latos was 0-2 with a plus-8.00 ERA in his initial three starts with the Reds in April.

He then reeled off seven consecutive wins in a stretch that saw him pitch a pair of complete games and lower his ERA to 4.10 before a 7-1 loss to Arizona in his last outing on July 18.

In that game, Latos was touched for five runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings, the first time he failed to escape the fifth inning since mid-June.

He was tagged for seven runs on seven hits in just 3 1/3 innings in his last meeting with the Astros on June 2, but got a no-decision in the Reds' 12-9 win.

In six career starts against Houston, Latos is 3-1.

On Sunday in Cincinnati, Johnny Cueto tossed seven innings of one-run baseball to help the Reds beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 2-1, and complete a three-game sweep.

Cueto (12-5) gave up the one run on eight hits for the Reds, who have won four in a row. He had nine strikeouts and one walk while improving to 7-1 at home this year.

Brandon Phillips and Wilson Valdez both had an RBI in the third inning for Cincinnati, which went 8-2 on a 10-game homestand.

"It was great to start the homestand with a sweep against the Cardinals and we ended the homestand with a sweep," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Cincinnati leads the National League's Central Division by a half-game over Pittsburgh, which has won five straight.

In Arizona, Chris Young clubbed a three-run homer as part of a seven-run sixth inning and the Diamondbacks completed a three- game sweep of the Astros with an 8-2 victory on Sunday at Chase Field.

Justin Maxwell crushed a solo home run in the second for the Astros, who have now lost six straight and 10 of their last 11 games.

Jordan Lyles (2-7) was shelled for eight runs - five earned - on 10 hits over 5 2/3 frames to absorb the loss.

Taking the mound for the Astros in the opener will be Dominican southpaw Wandy Rodriguez, who's 8-9 against Cincinnati in 25 career starts.

He also received a no-decision in the June 2 matchup with Latos after allowing nine runs on nine hits in just five innings of work.

The game saw his ERA jump from 2.49 to 3.14.

Rodriguez is 3-4 in eight starts since, including losses in each of his assignments since the All-Star break.

He gave up 11 hits and nine runs in 10 innings at San Francisco and San Diego and hasn't won since a 6-3 defeat of Milwaukee on July 7.

In 11 home starts this season, the 33-year-old is 4-4.

The Reds have won four of six games against the Astros in 2012, including two of three in Cincinnati in April and two of three in Houston in June.

Houston last won the season series in 2008.

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