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CIN@ARI: Cueto fans seven, holds D-backs scoreless

The last time the Phillies matched up with the Reds, when host Philadelphia took two of three during a mid-May weekend series, they got a little lucky. They didn't have to face Johnny Cueto.

The Phillies won't be as fortunate this time around. Cueto will get the ball opposite Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels on Friday at Great American Ball Park, the opener of a three-game weekend set.

Cueto is fresh off the latest in a series of dominant starts otherwise known as his 2014 campaign. He shut down the D-backs for 7 1/3 scoreless innings, scattering five hits and a walk while striking out seven. It lowered his ERA to a Major League-best 1.68.

In addition to ERA, Cueto is also leading the National League in opponents' batting average (.151) and complete games (tied with three). He's second in innings pitched (91) and strikeouts (92). He also hasn't given up a homer in 32 innings, a stretch that dates back to May 9 when Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki went yard.

Against the Phillies, though, Cueto hasn't fared as well. He owns a career 5.31 ERA and 1.33 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in seven career starts against them, albeit most of that damage came via 13 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings back in 2009.

If Cueto's latest outing against Arizona is any indication, it might not be as much of an issue Friday.

"Another excellent performance," manager Bryan Price said after the win over the D-backs. "We've won some series but we haven't really peeled off a long winning streak, which would really help us right now. It was nice to see him go out there and pitch well and also get the victory."

This weekend could be an opportunity to start one of those winning streaks Price is looking for. Despite a 6-1 loss to the Giants on Thursday, Cincinnati has won five of eight, including four in a row before dropping two straight to San Francisco.

Hamels is the most significant hindrance to getting that going Friday. He has historically dominated the Reds, going 8-0 while posting a 1.67 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 11 starts.

He was similarly effective his last time out, a seven-inning effort in which he allowed two runs (one earned) against the Mets. Manager Ryne Sandberg stretched him out to 125 pitches in the eventual 4-3, 11-inning loss, the second of six in a row for Philly.

"I mean, he gives us the opportunity," Sandberg said afterward. "No question about it."

The Phillies are also mired in a stretch in which they've lost eight of their last 10 contests.

Phillies: Byrd big vs. Cueto
When it comes to navigating the Philadelphia lineup -- which ranked 26th with 220 runs entering Thursday -- don't be surprised if Cueto is particularly careful with the No. 5 hole.

Marlon Byrd is having a respectable season at the plate, batting .264/.319/.459 to go with his eight homers and 32 RBIs, but his history against the Reds right-hander takes it to another level.

Including postseason appearances, Byrd is 9-for-14 (.643) with two long balls, a double and two walks against Cueto, including a 2-for-2 effort last October. Although it's a small sample size, that success spans time (starting in 2010) and team (including Byrd's stints with the Cubs, Mets and Pirates).

None of the other Phillies can claim that degree of success. Only three of Byrd's teammates have more at-bats against Cueto, but none of Jimmy Rollins (4-for-18, .222), Ryan Howard (4-for-16, .250) or Chase Utley (4-for-16, .250) has fared as well.

Reds: Frazier carrying a large load
Todd Frazier has only stepped to the plate six times against Hamels, collecting two hits and three RBIs, but based on the third baseman's season thus far, it's fair to expect he might find success Friday.

Frazier leads the team with 12 homers and 31 RBIs, and a 2-for-4 effort Thursday upped his average to .275, which would be the highest of his Major League career. He's also collected at least one base knock in six straight and nine of his last 10 games.

"I always feel good when he's at the plate because you know that he's going to compete," Price said Thursday. "His power, and he's leading us in RBIs -- I think he's leading us in almost every offensive category. He's doing a lot of good things for us."

Worth noting
• Jay Bruce (99) and Brandon Phillips (97) are closing in on 100 career home runs at Great American Ball Park. Both trail only Adam Dunn (126) on the all-time list.

• Reds relievers have allowed one run in their last six games, spanning 17 2/3 innings.

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