As poor as the Cincinnati Reds have played of late, there's reason to feel good about their chances with Johnny Cueto on the mound.
Looking to help the Reds avoid a fifth consecutive loss and road series sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, Cueto can be the majors' first pitcher to 16 victories by winning a career-high sixth straight start Wednesday night.
Cincinnati (61-65) has won twice in 11 games and both victories came with Cueto (15-6, 2.06 ERA) on the hill.
Owner of the third-lowest ERA in the majors, Cueto has allowed seven runs and struck out 39 over 39 innings in the last five outings. The right-hander, who also won five in a row July 8-Aug. 2, 2012, has yielded two runs in each of the last three and lasted eight innings in both starts following his complete game in a 9-2 win at Cleveland on Aug. 5.
''As a manager, it's very comfortable being able to put your stock into one guy,'' Cincinnati's Bryan Price said. ''You go all in with Johnny and you don't fear losing the game late.''
He struck out six at Colorado on Friday.
"He's one of the best in the league. He's an animal," Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said.
Cueto has allowed a solo homer and lasted seven innings in each of his last two versus St. Louis (68-57), over which he's 0-1 and received one run of support. He surrendered three hits and struck out eight during a 1-0 home loss to the Cardinals to open this season.
Though the Reds have lost seven straight series at Busch Stadium, they haven't been swept there since Sept. 26-28, 2008.
Cincinnati has led in each contest during its four-game skid and blew a 4-1 advantage in Tuesday's 5-4 defeat to the Cardinals, who won when John Jay was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth.
St. Louis won 6-5 in 10 innings of Monday's opener.
Jay, 10 for 21 with a double and three homers against Cueto, has 10 RBIs and been hit six times while batting .484 during an 11-game hitting streak.
''It's not like you hope to get hit by a pitch every time,'' Jay said. ''But I'll take it.''
A winner in three straight and six of seven, St. Louis should feel even more confident with Lance Lynn (13-8, 2.91) taking the ball.
The right-hander gave up seven runs in two innings of a 9-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 28, but is 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA in eight starts that followed. He allowed a run in six innings of a 4-2 home victory over San Diego on Friday.
"He has a real nice feel for all of his pitches right now," manager Mike Matheny told MLB's official website.
Lynn is 2-0 against the Reds this season, but has posted a 6.55 ERA in those contests.
He went 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA at home versus Cincinnati last season, but allowed five runs in six innings of a 7-5 victory there April 8.
Two of Todd Frazier's three hits in 18 at-bats against Lynn left the park. The All-Star third baseman hit a two-run homer Tuesday and is 4 for 7 in the series.