Just over one month ago, the Cincinnati Reds were nearly unbeatable at home, but now wins are hard to come by at Great American Ball Park.
A visit from the Washington Nationals may be what the Reds need to get things turned around in Cincinnati, as these two last-place teams open a four-game series Thursday.
Cincinnati (39-47) went 12-1 at Great American Ball Park between May 7-June 1, but has since lost all four series it has played there while losing nine of 12 games.
The Reds took advantage of their hitter-friendly ballpark during their home surge, scoring 80 runs and hitting 24 home runs. Their offense has been struggling there lately, with 35 runs and 14 homers in their last 12 games in Cincinnati.
The Reds hit three home runs in building a 5-4 lead over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, but went on to lose 9-5.
Jay Bruce had four RBIs and the first multihomer game of his career Wednesday, and with six hits in his last four contests, the Reds hope their top prospect has broken out of his slump. After batting .457 with three homers and 11 RBIs in his first 12 games, Bruce entered Wednesday hitting .185 with one homer and four RBIs in his previous 21 games.
Fellow rookie Johnny Cueto (6-8, 4.68 ERA) also seems to be getting in a groove and he takes the ball Thursday.
Cueto allowed five hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 5-0 win over Cleveland, his first victory since June 6.
Despite going three weeks without a victory, the right-hander has been pitching well lately. In his last three starts, he has yielded three runs in 18 1-3 innings. Cueto received one total run of support in his previous three outings before Saturday.
“I’ve been working on my slider and changeup,” Cueto said through interpreter Edinson Volquez on the Reds’ official Web site. “Those two pitches have been working for me the last two games.”
This will be his first career start against Washington (34-52), which has lost five of six road games and has won only one of its last seven series away from home.
The Nationals have struggled regardless of where they’ve been playing lately, as they lost for the 10th time in 15 games with Wednesday’s 4-2 defeat to Florida.
Washington also has lost the last seven times John Lannan (4-9, 3.54) has started, and they’ll try to break that trend Thursday.
Lannan allowed seven runs - four earned - and seven hits in five innings of a 9-1 loss to Baltimore on Saturday, and is 0-5 with a 3.73 ERA in his last seven starts. The left-hander, who has not won since defeating Baltimore on May 18, was 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA in his six starts before his skid.
Lannan has been at his best on the road, yielding two runs or less in eight of his nine starts, but has gone just 3-4 in those games. He has the third-best road ERA in the NL at 2.33, but is receiving a league-worst 2.48 runs of support per game on the road.
In his only career start against the Reds on Aug. 1, Lannan got the win as he gave up two runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-2 victory.
The Nationals won six of seven over the Reds last season after losing five of six meetings in 2006.