While the New York Yankees continue their surge, the Cincinnati Reds are having trouble snapping out of their slump.
The teams heading in opposite directions of late continue their three-game interleague series Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.
Reds ace Johnny Cueto was scratched shortly before the Yankees' 5-3 victory Monday due to neck soreness, marking another blow to a team which has lost three of four.
Cincinnati is hopeful Cueto (4-2, 1.68 ERA) can go Tuesday, especially since the right-hander hasn't allowed an earned run in 14 innings over his last two starts - both victories. He gave up an unearned run in the first inning Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers and allowed five hits over seven innings.
Cueto also has been solid in interleague play in recent years, another plus for the Reds (38-36), who have lost six of seven against AL opponents. He's 4-1 with a 3.82 ERA in his last five interleague starts.
However, Cueto lost his only outing against the Yankees on June 22, 2008, despite giving up one run in five innings while striking out seven.
``There's a little pain when I throw,' Cueto said. ``I'll probably, maybe pitch (Tuesday).'
No matter who takes the mound for Cincinnati, they'll hope for some support from a struggling offense. Despite leading the NL in runs, the Reds have scored only seven in their last four games.
Cleanup hitter Jay Bruce is hitting .160 over his last eight games and has driven in only two runs since June 3. Reigning NL MVP Joey Votto went hitless for the third time in four games.
``We're having a hard time getting batters on base - in any inning - and getting their pitchers into a stretch right away,' manager Dusty Baker said. ``We've got to come up with a way to get one or two guys on right away.'
New York (42-29) scored four runs in the first inning Monday - more than Cincinnati has scored in any of its last four games - propelling the Yankees to their ninth win in 11 games.
``An ideal first inning,' Alex Rodriguez said. ``We'll take that every time.'
Manager Joe Girardi inserted Andruw Jones into the lineup for Brett Gardner due to Cueto being scratched, and the veteran's RBI single capped the big first inning. Jones was hitting .077 this month prior to Monday, while Gardner was 7 for 14 over his previous four games.
Rodriguez went 2 for 4 with an RBI before leaving in the eighth inning, improving his interleague batting average this season to .483. He is reportedly playing with a sore left shoulder but has yet to specify anything aside from some discomfort.
``I feel OK,' he said. ``Nothing north of that, for sure. I'm good enough to play. A lot of guys are banged up.'
Right-hander Brian Gordon (0-0, 3.38) will make his second career start after allowing two runs in 5 1-3 innings of New York's 3-2, 12-inning victory Thursday against Texas.
Closer Mariano Rivera has converted 21 straight save opportunities against NL opponents and has 65 interleague saves overall.
The Yankees have won 11 of 15 interleague games.
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