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Preview: Reds at Astros

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

It is rare that a playoff-contending team can add a former 19-game winner in mid-September, but the Cincinnati Reds will do just that when Johnny Cueto draws his first start in over two months on Monday. The Reds, who open a three-game road interleague series against the Houston Astros, hold a 4 ½-game lead over Washington in the National League wild-card chase. Cueto went 19-9 in 2012, but has landed on the disabled list three times this season with a lat injury.

Cincinnati trails Pittsburgh and St. Louis by 3½ games in the NL Central, and is coming off Sunday’s 6-5 loss at Milwaukee in which it surrendered a four-run lead after six innings. "That's probably as crushing of a defeat as we've had all year," starter Bronson Arroyo said following the game. The Reds should be able to bounce back in their first meeting since the league-worst Astros, who was their division rival from 1994-2012, moved over to the American League in the off-season.

TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, FSN Ohio (Cincinnati), CSN Houston

PITCHING MATCHUP: Reds RH Johnny Cueto (4-2, 3.33 ERA) vs. Astros LH Erik Bedard (4-10, 4.47)

Cueto lasted one inning at Texas on June 28 before his latest setback. "We'll see what we can get out of him. … It's worth a try, it's worth the effort, because he's Johnny Cueto,” manager Dusty Baker said. The 27-year-old reported no setbacks after throwing 60 pitches of live batting practice Wednesday and will be on a pitch count versus the Astros, against whom he is only 2-6 despite a 3.89 ERA over 12 career starts.

With Jarred Cosart shut down for the season, Bedard will return to the rotation to make his 24th start of 2013. The Ontario native, who was 3-9 with a 4.48 ERA before moving to the bullpen after an Aug. 21 turn in Texas, last pitched in relief on Sept. 8 when he threw four scoreless innings against Oakland. Bedard will face Cincinnati for the first time in his career and attempt to break a nine-start winless streak.

WALK-OFFS

1. Cueto was to be used out of the bullpen initially, but projected starter Tony Cingrani was skipped because of a back injury.

2. Houston (51-98) is on the verge of becoming the first team since the 2004-06 Kansas City Royals to lose 100 games in three consecutive seasons.

3. Cincinnati is one of two teams Bedard has never faced (Houston).

PREDICTION: Reds 5, Astros 4

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130916/preview-reds-at-astros