MLB Insiders: Cincinnati Reds

Wandy Rodriguez

The Pirates open a three-game series in Cincinnati on Monday night. Right-hander Wandy Rodriguez gets the start for the Bucs. The Reds will toss righty Mat Latos.

Pittsburgh failed to take advantage of a favorable matchup over the weekend, suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of the visiting Chicago Cubs. The Pirates were outscored 20-7 by the majors' second-worst club while batting .160 - including a 3-for-21 effort with runners in scoring position.

Pittsburgh went 0 for 11 in such situations in Sunday's finale, falling 4-2.

Things aren't about to get any easier for the Pirates, who've dropped six in a row on the road - their longest single-season skid since a 14-game drought July 29-Aug. 30, 2010 - by a 38-21 margin.

Latos (12-4, 3.69 ERA) is 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA over his last 14 starts, allowing two earned runs or fewer in all but two of those outings. He's also given Pittsburgh fits over the course of his career, going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in five matchups.

Two of those have come this season. Latos won both while striking out 16 over 13 1-3 scoreless innings and posting a .136 opponent batting average.

Latos beat the Pirates 3-0 on August 3.

Latos, who outdueled Wandy Rodriguez (10-13, 3.71) in that game, also took the left-hander deep for his first homer of the season.

Rodriguez, though, has been dominant in winning his last two starts. He threw six innings of three-hit ball in a 5-0 win over St. Louis on Aug. 29, then scattered four hits and struck out seven over seven scoreless innings Tuesday in a 6-2 win over Houston.

Rodriguez has typically struggled against Cincinnati, going 8-11 with a 4.39 ERA over 27 career starts - 26 of which came while with Houston. He faces a Reds team, though, that's been limited to 15 runs during a 2-4 skid.

For the first five months of the season, daylight was Johnny Cueto's bosom buddy.

Now, it treats him like it used to treat Dracula.

Cueto, who was 11-0 in 13 daytime starts through the first five months, is 0-2 in two September starts after losing to the last-place Houston Astros 5-1 on Sunday.

Cueto allowed nine hits and four runs in four innings Sunday after giving up eight hits and four runs in seven innings of Cincinnati's 4-2 loss to Philadelphia on Labor Day.

"He was throwing the ball well," manager Dusty Baker said. "He was getting the ball up."

Cueto (17-8), who went into the game having already logged a career-high 188 2/3 innings, refused to blame fatigue for his recent problems.

"I'm working hard," he said. "We're all working hard. I have three outings left. I'm going to try to keep working hard."

Notes, Quotes

After losing two out of three against Philadelphia and Houston in the first six games of the nine-game homestand, the Reds have lost back-to-back series for the first time since being swept by Cleveland, June 18-20, and losing two of three to Minnesota, June 22-24. They've lost back-to-back series against NL teams for the first time since losing two out of three twice to St. Louis, sandwiched around losing three out of four at Washington in April.

OF Jay Bruce embellished his Player of the Week credentials with two hits on Sunday, extending his hitting streak to nine games (14-for-32, .438, six homers, 15 runs batted in). Bruce is hitting .364 (36-for-99) with 12 homers and 29 RBI in his last 26 games.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Bruce's 33rd home run on Saturday made major league history. He is the first player to hit at least 20 home runs as a rookie and improve on that total each of the next four seasons. Bruce had 21 homers as a rookie in 2008, 22 in 2009, 25 in 2010 and 32 last season. Only five other players have done that at any point in their careers: Hack Wilson (1926-1930), Willie Stargell (1967-1971), Jim Thome (1998-2002), Derrek Lee (2001-2005) and David Ortiz (2002-2006).

SS Zack Cozart and 3B Scott Rolen remained sidelined with injuries. Sunday's game was the fifth straight missed by Cozart (strained left oblique) and the fourth by Rolen (sore lower back).

RHP Mat Latos will try to stay perfect in his career against Pittsburgh when he starts Monday in the opener of a three-game series. Latos is 4-0 with a 1.67 earned-run average in five starts against Pittsburgh. He has allowed six hits in 13 1/3 shutout innings over two starts against the Pirates this season.

By The Numbers: 2.70—Cincinnati's combined bullpen ERA, the best in the majors. The relief corps has a 1.35 ERA on the home stand and, except for Aroldis Chapman's three-run, one-inning meltdown on Friday, has thrown 19 scoreless innings.

Quote To Note: "A lot of these guys you don't know as well. You try to go with the plan that you think is the smartest, but you've got to give (the Astros) credit." —C Ryan Hanigan on pitching to the unknown Astros, who have baseball's youngest roster with an average age of 26.2.

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