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MIA@WSH: Nolasco closes out complete-game shutout

The Marlins have just the guy they want on the mound as they go for a sweep of the National League Central-leading Reds on Sunday at Marlins Park.

Ricky Nolasco (12-12, 4.40 ERA) will toe the rubber for Miami in his first start since being named the National League Co-Player of the Week. The right-hander hurled a shutout against the Nationals on Sunday, his second shutout of baseball's best team in a 13-day span.

A winner of four straight decisions and five of his last six, Nolasco is 4-1 with a 2.72 ERA in his past six outings. He is 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA in his past three.

"He's throwing more strikes," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He's around the strike zone more. He's more aggressive. He's using his fastball more often. Now his breaking ball is working because his fastball is out there. That's what I see about Ricky. Ricky's got a great arm. He's not nibbling anymore. He's going right at people. I think that's very important."

Opposing Nolasco will be Cincinnati's Mat Latos (12-4, 3.72), who went to high school in nearby Coconut Creek, Fla. Latos, who is two wins shy of a career high, is 7-2 with a 2.56 ERA over his past 15 starts. That ERA is second best in the Major Leagues in that span, behind only Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.

While the Reds pitching staff is one of the best in the Majors, their offense has scored only 2.77 runs per game this month.

"Actually, this is prepping them for the playoffs, because there are going to be more close one-run games," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before Saturday night's 6-4 loss. "There aren't going to be high outputs on offense. We're just getting some guys back. [Scott Rolen's] coming back. [Todd] Frazier's been on the downturn lately. [Drew] Stubbs has been on the downturn lately. We've got a few guys that have been struggling a little bit, but have one phase of the game on top."

Reds: Bruce struggling since Monday's honor
• Jay Bruce has struggled since being named the National League Co-Player of the Week on Monday. He shared the honor with Nolasco, whom he will face on Sunday.

Hitless in 17 at-bats before tripling in Saturday's loss, Bruce is 3-for-25 with seven strikeouts since Monday.

"No. 1, the other teams read that he's Player of the Week," Baker said. "I think that's what nobody sees. They're going in pitching him tough saying, 'He's hot, don't let Jay beat you,' and that's what happens. It's not just Jay not doing something. Sometimes it's them not allowing Jay to do a whole bunch. They're not throwing a whole bunch of good pitches to hit. Jay has to be patient and accept the walks. They're not pitching to him."

• Rookie shortstop Zack Cozart, out with a left oblique strain since Sept. 3, took batting practice on Saturday for the first time since the injury.

Marlins: Johnson aims for 200 innings
• Josh Johnson has his sights set on reaching the 200-innings pitched mark.

Having logged 179 1/3 innings thus far, the 6-foot-7 right-hander will make three more starts, including Wednesday's home outing against the Braves.

"I'm getting all my starts in, and I'm trying to get to 200," he said before Saturday's game against the Reds.

Johnson, who was limited to 60 1/3 innings over nine starts last season due to right shoulder inflammation, needs to average seven innings the rest of the way to reach 200.

He pitched 209 innings in 2009, when he made 33 starts. He is on pace to make 32 starts this year.

"My goal this season was no numbers, but to make all my starts," he said. "If I miss the last one, that's fine. I'm fine with that. It's no big deal, because there is no reason to be out there."

• Since Hanley Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers on Aug. 25, Jose Reyes has been a mainstay in the three-hole of the Marlins' lineup. Guillen said on Saturday that his plan is for the four-time All-Star shortstop to hit third next season, with Emilio Bonifacio leading off and Giancarlo Stanton batting cleanup.

"I don't think he's a true leadoff hitter, even though he's been leading off all of his life," Guillen said. "He wasn't walking much. His on-base percentage is not that great. It's good. I don't mind him hitting second or third."

Worth noting
• The Reds have an off-day on Monday before beginning a three-game series against the Cubs in Chicago on Tuesday.

• Stanton's triple in the first inning of Saturday's win was his first of the season.

• Miami catcher Rob Brantly's extended his hitting streak to a career-best seven games with a double in the second inning of Saturday's victory. Comments