After going unbeaten over the last month-plus, Ervin Santana is on the verge of matching the longest winning streak of his career.
He would appear to have a good chance to do so against the punchless Cincinnati Reds, who are looking to avoid their longest losing streak in five seasons Saturday night.
Santana is 6-0 with a 2.98 ERA over his last seven starts, a stretch during which he's struck out 45 over 45 1-3 innings. The right-hander won seven consecutive decisions with the Angels in his second season in 2006.
Santana (13-6, 3.71) gave up nine hits - including three homers - over 5 1-3 innings but otherwise managed to limit the damage in Monday's 7-3 victory at Pittsburgh. It was an uncharacteristic display for Santana, who had served up two homers in his previous 10 outings.
He should have an easier time keeping the ball in the park against the Reds' anemic offense. Cincinnati (61-68) is hitting .198 and slugging .310 during a seven-game skid after falling 3-1 in 12 innings Friday for its 12th defeat in 14 games.
Mike Minor held the Reds hitless until Billy Hamilton singled home Zack Cozart with two outs in the eighth inning. Hamilton finished 2 for 4 and the rest of the team was 0 for 34.
"We're all working hard," said Hamilton, who matched a season best with three stolen bases. "It's just happening the way it's happening."
The Reds haven't dropped eight in a row since July 28-Aug. 4, 2009. Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick are a combined 14 for their last 78 while Brandon Phillips is 3 for 20 since coming off the disabled list Monday.
"It's discouraging, frustrating - whatever word you want to use," manager Bryan Price said.
Atlanta (68-61) is seeking an eighth win in nine games thanks to Justin Upton's tiebreaking two-run homer. The slugging left fielder finished a double shy of the cycle and is batting .413 with five homers and 20 RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak.
"Right now, we're hot," catcher Gerald Laird said. "Our guys are swinging the bat well. The big boys are driving in some clutch runs that we need."
Upton has hit safely in seven straight against the Reds, going 15 for 27 while slugging 1.037. Atlanta has taken all five games against Cincinnati this year by a combined 21-6 score.
The Braves will try to stay hot against Mike Leake, who is 0-2 with a 5.21 ERA in his last three starts. The right-hander yielded four runs over seven innings in Monday's 6-5, 10-inning loss at St. Louis.
Leake (9-11, 3.65) has also surrendered four runs over seven innings in each of his last two matchups against the Braves, losing both. He gave up homers to Upton, Freddie Freeman and Evan Gattis - the most he's allowed this season - in a 4-1 defeat at Atlanta on April 26.
Upton is 6 for 11 against Leake, but Freeman and Jason Heyward are a combined 1 for 21.
Santana allowed four runs over 6 2-3 innings in his only appearance against the Reds, a 5-4 victory April 25.
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