While the Cincinnati Reds usually find a way to win with Mat Latos on the mound, the Miami Marlins are having trouble scoring regardless of what pitcher they're facing.
The undefeated Latos will try to win a fifth consecutive start and lead the Reds to their season-best sixth straight victory Thursday against a Miami team that has the worst offense in the majors.
Following a 4-0 victory Wednesday, Cincinnati (24-16) goes for a three-game sweep at Marlins Park in the opening series of a nine-game road trip.
Leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo matched a career high with four hits, including two homers, and four Reds pitchers combined to hand Miami (11-29) its league-worst seventh shutout.
"This ballpark is big," said Choo, who has a team-leading nine home runs. "Some balls fly, some don't. I'm not thinking about hitting homers. I'm just swinging hard."
While Choo has two multihomer efforts in his last seven games, Miami has gone deep three times over its last eight while getting held to 12 runs.
Cincinnati is 5-1 in this season series and has won 13 of the last 15 regular-season starts made by Latos (4-0, 3.04 ERA). He's 8-0 in that span.
The right-hander allowed 14 runs through seven outings this year before yielding half that many Sunday, but Latos still won his fourth straight start. He went six innings in a 13-7 victory over Milwaukee, giving up two home runs after not surrendering one in his previous four outings.
"I didn't allow myself to have my best stuff," Latos said. "I was aggravated with myself. It was a poor performance."
The Reds have given their starters 190 runs of support - among the most in the majors - and they've provided Latos a team-high 33.
Latos may not need much help this time against an NL-worst Miami team that's last in the majors in runs (110), batting average (.224) and homers (22).
Justin Ruggiano is 4 for 27 with 10 strikeouts over his last eight games, Placido Polanco is 3 for 22 in his last six and Greg Dobbs was in a 1-for-23 slump before going 2 for 4 on Wednesday.
"We definitely have some guys that are struggling," said manager Mike Redmond, whose club has lost four in a row and seven of eight. "We need guys to step up. We know we're capable of more offense than this."
Although he's 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four career starts in Miami, Latos allowed one run and struck out 10 over seven innings before leaving without a decision in a 2-1 home loss to the Marlins on April 19.
Miami counters with right-hander Jose Fernandez (2-2, 3.65), who goes after his third straight victory following a rough three-start stretch in which he went 0-2 with a 7.62 ERA.
The rookie has struck out 16 over his last two outings, yielding three runs in 13 innings.
"I keep learning every start," said Fernandez, who has two of the team's three wins this month.
Fernandez hopes to learn from his last outing against the Reds on April 18, when he surrendered five runs over four innings in an 11-1 road loss.
Choo and Zack Cozart each went 2 for 3 against Fernandez in that victory.
Joey Votto, 2 for 4 in Wednesday's win, is 12 for 19 with two homers and five RBIs over his last four games against Miami.
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