Astros-Reds Preview

The Associated Press

While Joey Votto is scuffling a bit at the plate, Jay Bruce is thriving.

Bruce would just like to see some continued consistency from himself.

He and the Cincinnati Reds go for the series win against the visiting Houston Astros on Sunday afternoon in the finale of this three-game set.

Cincinnati avoided a third straight loss with a 6-0 win over Houston on Saturday. Bruce hit a two-run double, a two-run homer and had a key defensive play while Johnny Cueto pitched seven innings.

"That's what good teams do," Bruce said. "They execute. Johnny pitched great, the defense was awesome and we hit when we needed to. It was perfect.''

While Bruce was pleased with his team's effort, he's been the biggest offensive threat of late for the Reds (10-11) with homers in three straight games. He is batting .429 with 10 RBIs in the last nine after snapping a career-worst 0-for-19 slump.

"I'm just trying to be more consistent," Bruce told the team's official website before Saturday's game. "Obviously 0 for 19 and then going on a tear is not consistent."

His surge at the plate has helped make up for the lack of production from Votto, who hasn't homered since the second game of the season and is 4 for 18 with six strikeouts the last five games.

All of those hits are doubles, however, and Votto remains confident he'll break out of his slump. He scored twice Saturday and still has a .426 on-base percentage despite his lack of recent hits.

The Reds, who have won seven of their last 11 home games against the Astros (8-13), will send Mat Latos (1-2, 5.64 ERA) to the mound Sunday.

Cincinnati was looking for Latos to solidify the front end of its rotation and dealt four players to acquire the right-hander from San Diego, but he's struggled so far.

Latos, however, is looking to build off his best outing of the season. After giving up eight runs in his previous start against St. Louis, he pitched seven scoreless innings in a 9-2 win over San Francisco on Tuesday, allowing four hits.

"It's good to get him that first win, big-time,'' manager Dusty Baker said. ''He told me after his last start, 'Skip, that won't happen again.' He's a man of his word.''

Latos has a good chance to build on the victory as he is 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA in four starts against the Astros.

While Latos has had success against Houston, he'll want to pitch carefully to Jordan Schafer, who singled in the fifth Saturday to extend his streak to 21 consecutive games reaching base to start the season.

It's the longest season-opening streak by an Astro since Ricky Gutierrez went 23 games in 1998. The club record is 25 by Denis Menke in 1969.

To close the series, the Astros will bring up Jordan Lyles to replace the injured Kyle Weiland.

Lyles couldn't break into the rotation after a shaky spring, but he went 4-0 with a 3.46 ERA in four starts at Triple-A.

The right-hander made 20 appearances in 2011 with Houston, including 15 as a starter. He went 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA.

Lyles made one start against the Reds last season, giving up three runs - two homers - in seven innings of a 5-4 win.

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