Reds-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker didn't want a rare day out of the starting lineup to affect Joey Votto's swing.

There's little chance of that happening in Houston for the 2010 NL MVP.

Votto will look to extend his hitting streak at Minute Maid Park to 20 on Saturday night when the NL Central-leading Reds go for a fourth consecutive victory over the tumbling Astros.

With his team closing out a three-game set in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Baker had a chance to give Votto two consecutive days off as the Reds (29-22) had a break in the schedule before this three-game series.

"I was a little apprehensive if two days in a row (off) would hurt his stroke," Baker told the Reds' official website Wednesday. "He said it was not going to bother him at all."

After delivering a pinch-hit single in Wednesday's 2-1 loss - his first missed start since Aug. 23 - Votto went 2 for 4 with an RBI single in Friday's 4-1 victory over Houston to lift his batting average to .329. Votto has hit safely in eight straight overall and he's batting .468 (37 for 79) with four homers and 17 RBIs during his streak at Minute Maid Park - the longest by a visiting player in the ballpark's 12-year history.

Votto is 14 for 42 (.333) with two triples and three doubles against Saturday's scheduled starter Wandy Rodriguez (4-4, 2.49 ERA).

The Astros left-hander is looking for a bounce-back performance after giving up seven runs - four earned - in five innings of Monday's 9-7 loss at Colorado.

"If I had thrown a good game, I would have won, because I had good run support, but I didn't have good command of all my pitches today," Rodriguez told the Astros' official website following his 40th consecutive start of at least five innings.

Rodriguez, who has a 4.98 run-support average, isn't the only Astros pitcher failing to make the most of run support. Houston (22-30) has averaged 4.0 runs in its last seven games, but has lost them all as the club has a 7.36 ERA during that stretch.

The season-worst skid matches the Astros' longest from last year.

They'll face Mat Latos (4-2, 4.58) as they try to avoid their first eight-game slide since April 27-May 4, 2010.

The right-hander has won his last two starts and four decisions, but he was tagged for a career-high five homers in his last outing, Sunday's 7-5 victory over Colorado. Latos, though, didn't walk a batter for just the second time in 10 starts in 2012.

"That makes me feel a little better," he said.

Latos is 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA in five starts versus Houston. He struggled at home April 29, allowing five runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings, but the Reds rallied for a 6-5 win as they took two of three in that series.

Right fielder Jay Bruce is 7 for 14 with eight RBIs in the four games against the Astros this season, hitting a homer in each contest - launching his team-high 12th Friday.

Astros first baseman Carlos Lee won't play Saturday after suffering a strained left hamstring in the series opener.

"I will see the doctors, and everything is going to go on how I feel (Saturday) and Sunday," Lee said. "After that, we might have an idea."

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