Johnny Cueto 's current stretch of success has put him in position to set a career high for wins in a season.
The right-hander tries to win his fourth straight start while looking to help the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds extend their winning streak to nine games Saturday night against the Colorado Rockies .
"Pitching and defense," said third baseman Scott Rolen , who had two hits in the opener. "It's hard to lose if you shut somebody out."
Winners of 15 of 17, the Reds haven't had a nine-game run since taking 10 straight from June 21-July 1, 1999.
The odds are in their favor with Cueto (12-5, 2.23 ERA) on the mound. Since losing consecutive starts at San Francisco and Los Angeles, he's responded by going 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA.
After allowing four hits in six innings of a 4-0 win over Arizona on July 17, Cueto yielded one run and struck out nine in seven innings of a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee on Sunday, matching a career-high single-season win total.
"You know Johnny's not going to give up many runs," teammate Wilson Valdez said. "You know you might only have to score a couple of runs."
Only twice this season has Cueto allowed more than three runs in a start. One of those outings came May 25, when he was tagged for five and a season-high 11 hits over 4 2-3 innings of a 6-3 home loss to Colorado. That setback dropped his record to 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA in four starts against the Rockies.
Cueto is not the only Red to bounce back strong from a midseason slump. Ludwick has batted .409 (9 for 22) with five RBIs in his last six games following a 2-for-15 stretch over his previous six. The veteran outfielder is batting .369 with 20 RBIs in 21 career games at Coors Field.
"I kind of got my swagger back," Ludwick told the Reds' official website.
On May 25, he went 1 for 2 with a double against scheduled Colorado starter Christian Friedrich (5-7, 5.71), who allowed three runs and struck out six in a 6-3 win at Cincinnati.
While that victory began a stretch of three straight winning starts for the rookie left-hander, Friedrich is 1-6 with a 6.70 ERA in his last nine outings. He allowed two runs in five innings - but didn't get a decision - in the team's 3-2 loss at San Diego on Sunday.
"I really liked it here," said Scutaro, who had a hit Friday. "Unfortunately, the season didn't go the way we expected in the beginning."
Carlos Gonzalez had two hits in the opener for the Rockies, who have dropped nine of 12. The All-Star is batting .431 during a 26-game home hitting streak.
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Torn meniscus, left knee - out 3-4 weeks|
|July 16, 2012||Joey Votto||15-Day DL||Torn meniscus, left knee|
|June 30, 2012||Joey Votto||Day-to-Day||Left game - left knee inflammation|
|June 28, 2012||Brandon Phillips||Day-to-Day||Head|
|June 12, 2012||Zack Cozart||Day-to-Day||Illness|
|June 06, 2012||Drew Stubbs||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|July 21, 2012||Drew Pomeranz||Day-to-Day||Left arm soreness|
|July 21, 2012||Jason Giambi||15-Day DL||Viral syndrome|
|July 20, 2012||Wilin Rosario||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower left leg injury|
|July 16, 2012||Chris Nelson||15-Day DL||Irregular heart beat|
|July 16, 2012||Jonathan Herrera||15-Day DL||Left wrist infection|
|July 09, 2012||Todd Helton||15-Day DL||Right hip inflammation|
DENVER (AP) -- A show of power from his teammates helped Johnny Cueto get through a rough start.
Cueto shook off his early struggles to pitch effectively for six innings, Ryan Ludwick hit two of the Reds' five home runs, and Cincinnati won its season-high ninth straight by beating the Colorado Rockies 9-7 Saturday night.
Scott Rolen , Drew Stubbs and rookie Todd Frazier also homered for the NL Central leading Reds, who have gone 13-2 since the All-Star break and hit a high-water mark for the season at 20 games above .500 (60-40).
The winning streak is the longest for the Reds since a 10-game run in 1999.
"It was not an easy night, but I really liked the way they worked today and I love what happened" Cueto said of his offensive support. "They came in and did really well."
Consider it payback for what is shaping up as a standout season for Cueto.
"He can't throw zeroes up every time, even though he is really good," Ludwick said. "If he's not in the Cy Young talk now, there's something wrong. He's tied for the league lead in wins now. He's up there."
Cueto (13-5) allowed 10 hits and five runs, including three in the first inning, and twice had errant pickoff throws but managed to keep the ball in the park at hitter-friendly Coors Field to win his fourth consecutive decision. He struck out three and walked two and worked out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth by inducing Dexter Fowler to ground into a forceout.
With two out and two on in the eighth, reliever Sean Marshall struck out Carlos Gonzalez . Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth, stranding two base runners by fanning pinch hitter Andrew Brown for the final out for his 21st save in 25 chances.
"I never feel comfortable in this ball park," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It's a tough park to pitch in, a tough place to manage in."
But there's no arguing with the Reds' recent success.
"We just accept it and keep running with it," Baker said. "You don't think about how you're doing it. You don't think about how long you've been in it, and you don't think about when it's going to stop. You just come out and expect to win every day."
Michael Cuddyer connected for his 15th homer of the season, a two-run shot in the seventh off reliever Jose Arredondo that made it 8-7. Ludwick added another run for the Reds when he led off the eighth with a homer off Matt Belisle , his second of the night for his third multihomer game of the season and 15th of his career.
Rockies pitchers were tagged for a season-high five homers, including three off starter Christian Friedrich (5-8). He went 4 1-3 innings and allowed seven runs overall on six hits.
"It's always something different," Friedrich said. "Tonight, I felt I was lacking control and firing it in the zone for the most part. But I can't just go up there trying to fill up the zone, throwing pitches up in the zone, whether they're strikes. You got to keep the ball down."
The Rockies got out to a 3-0 lead in the first on Gonzalez's two-run double and Todd Helton 's sacrifice fly.
Ludwick and Frazier each hit solo shots in the second and Stubbs' third-inning homer evened the score at 3-3.
The Rockies regained the lead in the bottom of the third. Josh Rutledge singled, took second when Cueto threw wildly to first in an attempted pickoff, and moved to third on Gonzalez's single before scoring on Cuddyer's double-play grounder.
Frazier singled to start Cincinnati's four-run fifth. Ryan Hanigan walked and Cueto advanced them with a sacrifice before Zack Cozart 's single tied it again. Stubbs put the Reds back on top with a single to left that chased Friedrich. Josh Roenicke relieved, and Brandon Phillips greeted him with a two-run double to the center field wall.
After Fowler scored on a fielder's choice by Gonzalez that pulled the Rockies to 7-5, Rolen led off the sixth with his fifth home run of the season.
NOTES: The Rockies recalled INF Tommy Field from Triple-A Colorado Springs to fill the roster spot left vacant by Friday's trade of INF Marco Scutaro to the San Francisco Giants . ... Rockies RHP Jhoulys Chacin , who has been on the disabled list since May 2 with a shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to throw 45-50 pitches Sunday for Class A Modesto in his first rehab start. ... Frazier's 11 homers are the second most by a Reds' rookie third baseman, matching Chris Sabo 's total in 1988. Grady Hatton hit 14 for the Reds in 1946. ... Gonzalez went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs for his 37th multihit game of the season. He has a career-high 27-game hitting streak at home. ... Cueto has had three streaks this season of at least four consecutive wins.