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MIL@CIN: Cueto hurls seven strong to notch win No. 19

One Cincinnati pitcher has already slung his way into the club's record books in this series, when Homer Bailey became the first Red to throw a no-hitter since Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988.

Johnny Cueto will look to be the second Red to match an '88 club record by reaching the 20-win mark when he takes the mound on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Cueto lost three straight starts before bouncing back to win his past two outings. He is 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA against the Pirates this season and will take the mound in search of win No. 20, which would make him the first Red to reach the plateau since Danny Jackson in '88.

"That's the goal I want," Cueto said of a 20-win season. "God willing, I will get that one, because that's my goal. If I keep pitching and working like I am now, I should be OK. Thank God, those bad games are way behind me."

The game is slated for a 1:35 p.m. ET first pitch, marking Cueto's 17th day-game start of the year, which has been his strong suit this season. The Reds ace is 12-2 with a 2.03 ERA in day games.

It won't be an easy task, though, as Cueto opposes Pirates lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who hasn't lost since Aug. 24, spanning six starts.

During that stretch, Rodriguez has posted a 4-0 record with a 2.78 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.

The veteran southpaw faced a small rough patch in the first inning of his most recent outing, throwing 45 pitches -- the most by any Pirates pitcher this season -- and giving up three runs, but blanked the Mets through his final five frames.

"It was simply my location," Rodriguez said of the sloppy inning. "I missed with a lot of pitches. I was trying to hit the corners, and the ball would go right down the middle, and they hit it well. I went back to work thinking, 'I can put the ball wherever I want,' and concentrated on that."

With this being Rodriguez's last start, the first-year Pirate wants to finish off his opening stint in Pittsburgh as a winner. He is 5-4 with the Bucs.

Reds: Starters getting a breather
With just four games remaining for Cincinnati, bench coach and acting manager Chris Speier is practicing the balancing act of play and rest for his team.

Speier gave second baseman Brandon Phillips a day off Saturday, and said he expects Jay Bruce, Zack Cozart and Scott Rolen to rest Sunday.

"That looks like the plan as we speak," Speier said.

• Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick is expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday after missing eight games with a groin injury.

Ludwick came on to pinch-hit in the eighth inning of Saturday's game against the Pirates and lined a double to left field in his first at-bat since Sept. 19. Denis Phipps pinch-ran for Ludwick and eventually scored the tying run on a single by Rolen.

Ludwick is hitting .277 with 26 homers and 80 RBIs.

Pirates: Hitters' strikeouts piling up
To go along with being no-hit Friday, the Bucs also fanned 10 times on the night.

It brought their total to 1,312 strikeouts on the year to set a new club record, breaking last season's total of 1,308.

The Pirates struck out four more times Saturday to increase the record to 1,316.

• With the walk-off win Saturday, the Pirates keep their hopes a .500 season alive. At 77-81, the Pirates need to win out to finish .500 for the first time since 1992.

Worth noting
• If all goes according to plan, Sunday's clash in Pittsburgh should be the last day the Reds are without manager Dusty Baker.

The Reds' skipper has missed the past 10 games after being treated for an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke.

• Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan has successfully converted 16 consecutive save opportunities, dating back to July 4. He is four saves shy of 100 in his career.

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