Twins-Reds Preview

The Associated Press

The Cincinnati Reds are looking for a way to snap their longest losing streak of the season.

Giving the ball to Johnny Cueto could help the NL Central leaders do it.

Cueto will try to match a career high by winning a fourth consecutive start Saturday when the Reds and Minnesota Twins continue their first series at Great American Ball Park.

After losing three straight in Cleveland - the first time they've been swept in 2012 - the Reds (38-31) fell 5-4 on Friday to the AL-worst Twins (28-41).

"We're piling up the one-run losses (three in the last four games) this last week," said manager Dusty Baker, whose club hasn't dropped five straight since a six-game skid May 18-23, 2011. "Those are games we could've won if we make one pitch or get one hit.''

Cueto (8-3, 2.38 ERA) did more than just strike out a season-high eight and throw seven innings of one-run ball in Sunday's 3-1 road win over the New York Mets. He also had a double - his first career extra-base hit.

"After I hit that double and got to second, my eyes were blurry and I was dizzy and I felt like I was going to throw up," Cueto told the Reds' official website through a translator. "After that, I relaxed. I felt better and I threw the kind of game I wanted to throw."

The only time Cueto, who has never faced the Twins, won four consecutive starts was May 11-27, 2010.

Minnesota will counter with Brian Duensing (1-2, 3.12), who will make his first start of the season following 30 relief appearances.

With Carl Pavano and P.J. Walters on the disabled list, the Twins, whose 5.99 ERA from their starters is easily the AL's worst, are looking for someone to step up and deliver a solid outing.

Duensing went 9-13 with a 5.24 ERA in 28 starts in 2011.

"I feel pretty good about running him out there," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official website.

If the left-hander can show some promise - he'll likely be on a pitch count of 50-60 - it could lead to a more permanent role in the rotation for a team sending out its 10th starter in 2012.

Duensing has never faced Cincinnati.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto went 0 for 3 on Friday in his first look at Twins pitching, ending his team-high nine-game hitting streak.

However, the 2010 NL MVP is among the majors' best with a .363 batting average and hasn't gone hitless in two straight games since April 8 and 9.

Joe Mauer, who walked as a pinch-hitter Friday, will return to the lineup for the first time in five games due to a bruised right thigh. He will start at first base and Ryan Doumit will be behind the plate for Minnesota after matching a career high with four hits Friday.

Doumit hit .429 (9 for 21) off Reds pitching last season while with Pittsburgh, but he's just 5 for 19 with a homer versus Cueto.

Ryan Ludwick is the only current Red with an at-bat against Duensing. He's 0 for 3.

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