The hottest team in the majors for much of the past month, the Cincinnati Reds are suddenly on the verge of matching their longest losing streak of the season.
Fortunately for them, they may have the right man on the mound Wednesday to stop the slide.
Mat Latos looks to help the Reds avoid a fourth straight loss and a three-game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers by winning his fourth consecutive start.
The Reds (66-44) went 22-3 from July 6-Aug. 4, but they've matched that loss total in the last three days. After dropping the finale of a weekend home series against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati has lost the first two games of this set including a 3-1 defeat Tuesday.
Now, the Reds are one loss from matching their season-worst skid from June 18-22.
"We'll get it together and make another nice run," said manager Dusty Baker, whose club still holds a 3 1/2-game NL Central lead over the Pirates.
Three days after the final defeat of the June losing streak, Latos (10-3, 3.94 ERA) began to turn around his season with a dominant performance against the Brewers (50-59). The right-hander pitched his first complete game of 2012, allowing a home run by Norichika Aoki and three other hits while striking out a career-high 13 in the Reds' 3-1 home win.
Starting with that contest, Latos has gone 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA in his last eight starts - yielding two runs or fewer in seven of them - after posting a 5.20 ERA in his first 14. He's won his last three outings, putting him in position to win four straight starts for the first time since July 24-Aug. 8, 2009, as a rookie for San Diego.
Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks, who doubled and scored a run Tuesday, is batting .395 with four doubles and three homers over his last 13 games. He may be the Brewers' best bet to do some damage against Latos, as he's 5 for 10 with two homers and a double in their matchups.
Ryan Braun is 0 for 8 with three strikeouts - all coming in the June 25 loss.
The Brewers are seeking their second consecutive three-game sweep at home after beating Houston last week. If they pull it off, five of their last six overall series will have been sweeps, though they were on the wrong end of three on the road.
Milwaukee has totaled 40 runs and 12 homers during its five-game home winning streak, sandwiched around three weekend losses at St. Louis in which the Brewers scored four times and failed to homer.
"I know when you like hitting in your ballpark and you have confidence coming into the game, it makes a difference," manager Ron Roenicke told the team's official website. "You're more patient at the plate, you know you just have to square up balls and they're going to carry well."
After rookie Mike Fiers retired the first 18 Cincinnati batters he faced Tuesday, the Brewers will give the ball to veteran Randy Wolf (3-8, 5.57) for the series finale.
Wolf's 11 career wins over the Reds are his second-most against any opponent, but Cincinnati outfielder Jay Bruce is 9 for 22 (.409) with two homers and two doubles off him.
The left-hander has dropped his last two outings overall, and Milwaukee is 6-15 when he starts this year. He allowed five runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings of Friday's 9-3 loss to the Cardinals and is now trying to avoid losing three consecutive starts for the first time since June 17-July 2, 2008, when he dropped four in a row for the Padres.