Reds-Astros Preview

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.”