The Cincinnati Reds have only won two of their last eight games and both of those were started by Johnny Cueto.
They have another opportunity to win with someone other than their ace on the mound Sunday when the Reds close a three-game set against the New York Mets.
Just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central at the All-Star break, the second half has been miserable for Cincinnati (67-75), which has gone a league-worst 16-31 and is now in danger of finishing below .500 after consecutive 90-plus win seasons.
Cueto, though, has remained a shining light, tying for the major league lead with his 17th victory in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Mets (67-75). Chris Heisey and Todd Frazier hit home runs for the Reds, who ended a four-game skid overall and improved the majors’ worst record in one-run contests to 21-34.
"The Ringo Starr: It don’t come easy," manager Bryan Price said, referring to a song from the former Beatle. "Today we won the way we have when we’ve won."
Frazier’s home run was his second in two days and team-leading 25th. He’s 5 for 10 in this series and batting .440 (11 for 25) with three homers during a six-game hitting streak at home.
The first baseman looks to continue his hot hitting in support of Mat Latos (5-4, 3.46 ERA), who comes off one of his least effective starts of the season.
After waiting out a rain delay of nearly 2 1/2 hours, the right-hander allowed four first-inning runs on his way to a 5-4 loss at Baltimore on Tuesday. He settled down to limit the Orioles to one run over the next four innings but allowed a season-high 10 hits in his first loss since July 27.
"It (stunk)," Latos said. "You know, all of your adrenaline comes out of the bullpen. I like to create a tempo in the bullpen how I am going to pitch in the game. … I felt really good coming out of the pen."
Latos is 2-2 with a 2.89 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets, yielding one run over 14 innings in two in Cincinnati.
Cueto quieted a Mets offense that totaled 26 runs and 43 hits during a three-game winning streak.
Rookie Travis d’Arnaud had a pair of doubles Saturday and is 11 for 20 with five RBIs in five games this month.
David Wright is 11 for 27 with seven RBIs in his last six games but is 2 for 14 lifetime against Latos.
New York aims to complete a 4-2 trip behind Zach Wheeler (9-9, 3.45), who hasn’t lost away from Citi Field since June 8, going 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA in eight starts since.
However, the right-hander wasn’t at his best Monday at Miami, allowing five runs – two earned – over 4 2-3 innings, but he escaped without a decision as the Mets committed six errors in a 9-6 loss. That marked just the second time in 12 outings that Wheeler failed to record a quality start.
Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce is 7 for 48 (.146) in his past 14 games, with his only RBIs during that stretch coming on a grand slam at Baltimore on Tuesday.