The Cincinnati Reds are one victory shy of their first seven-game winning streak in nearly two years.
With Johnny Cueto on the mound at Great American Ball Park, they have to like their chances.
Making his first home start in nearly a month, Cueto looks to continue his dominance in Cincinnati as the Reds open a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies on Friday night.
The Reds (25-19) have won six in a row for the first time since a seven-game run Aug. 13-20, 2010, and it hasn't come against weak competition. Cincinnati began its streak by taking the final two of a three-game set against the New York Yankees in the Bronx, then returned home and swept four from an Atlanta club that began the series atop the NL East.
Devin Mesoraco's sixth-inning grand slam was the big blow Thursday night, turning a one-run deficit into a three-run lead in Cincinnati's eventual 6-3 victory. Drew Stubbs added a solo shot for the Reds, who have swatted 13 homers during their winning streak.
"They come in bunches,'' manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys are finding their strokes and confidence, big-time.''
While the bats have provided plenty of fireworks, the pitching staff has been just as big a reason for Cincinnati's surge. The Reds have a 2.50 ERA and .197 opponent batting average during the streak, allowing three runs or fewer in each of the last five wins. Cueto (5-1, 1.97 ERA) was responsible for one of them, allowing two runs in seven innings to outpitch Yankees ace CC Sabathia in Sunday's 5-2 victory.
Cueto has been so good that his ERA actually rose eight points in that outing, and he's been even better in Cincinnati. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA in seven home starts since July 31, giving up zero runs in five of those outings.
Cueto's last four starts have all come away from Cincinnati, where he'll be pitching for the first time since a 6-0 victory over Houston on April 28.
Cueto threw seven scoreless, three-hit innings against the Rockies in a 2-1 home win Aug. 11, improving to 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA in three career starts versus Colorado.
While the Reds are looking to extend their six-game winning streak, the Rockies (16-27) arrive in town after ending a string of six straight losses. Troy Tulowitzki had a homer, a double and four RBIs on Wednesday to help Colorado avoid a three-game sweep at Miami with an 8-4 win.
Tulowitzki finished the series against the Marlins 4 for 12 with two homers, seven RBIs and four runs scored to raise his average to .268 - still paltry for a cleanup hitter who finished each of the last three seasons batting .297 or higher.
"I told him the stranger that's hitting behind me is starting to look like Troy Tulowitzki," said Colorado left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who went 2 for 4 with a triple Wednesday. "That's what everybody's been waiting for. I'm not even worried about him because I know he's going to get hot and going to take care of us."
The Rockies will give the ball to rookie left-hander Christian Friedrich (1-1, 5.00), who looks to bounce back from his first rough outing in the major leagues. After limiting the opposition to two earned runs in 13 innings over his first two starts, he surrendered eight runs, nine hits and four walks in five innings of Saturday's 10-3 loss to Seattle.
"Just not establishing the fastball down, that's the biggest part of my game, it allows me to use all my other pitches,'' Friedrich said.