Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto looks to continue his dominant start to the 2014 season Tuesday night against the Nationals in Washington.
The right-hander has posted a Major League-best 1.25 ERA over his first nine starts, and has pitched at least seven innings while allowing two runs or less in every one. He also leads the Majors in innings (72) and complete games (three) and is tied for the lead in shutouts (two).
"He's been outstanding," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said before the Reds beat the Nats, 4-3, in a 15-inning series opener Monday. "He's been really acute, finite with his command. I've said it a few times this year: He's an Olympic baseball player. He does so many things well beyond simply throwing the ball."
Cueto's counterpart will be fellow right-hander Doug Fister, who will be making his third start for Washington -- and his home debut -- after missing the first six weeks of the season with a lat strain.
Fister struggled in his his Nationals debut May 9, getting roughed up for five earned runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings at Oakland. But in his second start Wednesday, he was excellent, yielding one run on five hits while walking none and striking out six in a win over the D-backs.
If Fister can carry that success over into Tuesday's start, the Reds will have a tough time trying to break out of their offensive slump. Cincinnati has scored three runs or fewer in four of its last five games dating back to the last time Cueto was on the mound, Thursday against the Padres.
The Reds have scored the third-fewest runs (154) in the Majors, but the Nationals have been having their own struggles on offense, hitting .230 in May after posting a .258 clip in March and April. Both teams have had injuries deplete their respective lineups, with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce injured for Cincinnati and Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman sidelined for Washington.
Reds: Votto progressing
• Votto, who has missed four games due to a strained left quad, is making progress toward a return to the lineup.
"We haven't made a decision, still got really good positive stuff coming out from his rehab and he's gotten a lot of the soreness out of his knees, working diligently on his strengthening," Price said Monday. "So we're not yet ready or don't feel necessary that we make a decision right now. It really is a day to day, kind of pending situation."
Nationals: LaRoche takes grounders as DL stint nears end
• LaRoche, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 11 with a strained right quad, took ground balls on Monday for the first time since being sidelined. He is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday, and it's unknown whether the Nats will send him for a rehab assignment before inserting him back into the lineup.
"I want him to go get a grounder that's just reactionary, potentially turn and have to go into right field to try and catch a popup," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "It's hard to simulate that. … When that is, I don't know."
• Before going 3-for-6 with a go-ahead two-run homer in the 15th inning that proved to be the decisive blow in Cincinnati's win Monday night, Todd Frazier had two hits in his previous 15 at-bats. He raised his batting average from .258 to .268 with his effort Monday.
• The relief corps of the two teams are going in opposite directions this season. The Nationals' bullpen has been stellar, posting a 2.08 ERA through the first 44 games, while Reds relievers have struggled to the tune of a 5.08 ERA through 43 games.
• With their extra-inning loss to the Reds, the Nationals are 1-4 in extra-inning affairs.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.