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Reds look for series win against Nationals Sunday

(AP) -- Though their lengthy skid has ended, the Cincinnati Reds still must find a way to produce at the plate.

The Reds could have a rough time ending their offensive struggles Sunday against Doug Fister and the visiting Washington Nationals.

Johnny Cueto allowed four hits and struck out nine in seven innings and Brayan Pena delivered a RBI single in the fifth Saturday as Cincinnati (52-51) snapped a seven-game slide with a 1-0 victory.

''You've heard me talk about how teams go through stretches like this,'' manager Bryan Price said. ''You hope it's not in September where it takes you out of the race. This one didn't, but I'm sure everybody in this building is feeling a lot better.''

Though the Reds finally earned their first win since the All-Star break, they've been held to one run in three straight contests and are batting .174 with 70 strikeouts while totaling 14 runs in the last eight games.

All-Star Todd Frazier is 1 for 17 with six strikeouts in five games while Jay Bruce is 2 for 28 with 11 in his last eight contests. Shortstop Zack Cozart, meanwhile, is mired in an 0-for-20 slump.

Things might not get any easier against Fister (9-2, 2.92 ERA), who allowed two runs in seven innings of a 9-4 victory over the Reds on May 20.

The right-hander's been just as tough while going 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA in his last five outings. He overcame nine hits and allowed two runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-2 win at Colorado on Monday.

"He's got good command and pitches to the bottom of the zone and the edge of the plate," Rockies manager Walt Weiss told MLB's official website.

The Reds counter with Mat Latos (2-2, 3.15), who has received three runs of support while going 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in his last two starts. The right-hander gave up five runs in seven innings of a 5-2 loss at Milwaukee on Monday.

"You can't fault the guys for trying," Latos said. "It all boils down to me not executing pitches."

Latos is 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA in six starts against the NL East-leading Nationals (56-45), but has not faced them 2012.

Ian Desmond and Adam LaRoche are batting a combined .333 (8 for 24) against Latos, but went 0 for 7 on Saturday as Washington lost for the second time in three games since winning four straight and six of seven.

The Nationals hurt themselves on the bases when Bryce Harper got doubled up on a fly out in the second inning and was retired in a rundown after going too far around second base in the seventh.

"It's part of our DNA,'' manager Matt Williams said. ''We're going to be aggressive. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it bites you. You can't change the way we play. It's aggressive by nature."

With half of the Nationals' four hits Saturday, catcher Wilson Ramos is 10 for 22 in his last five games and batting .373 in his last 21 contests. He's hitting .370 (10 for 27) in seven games at Cincinnati.

Ramos is 1 for 4 with a homer and two walks versus Latos.

 

 

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