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Posted at 08:00 AM ET, 07/09/2011

Leading off: Cincinnati Reds turn to Johnny Cueto to close gap on Milwaukee Brewers in National League Central

Game of the day: Cincinnati at Milwaukee, 7:10 p.m. After Milwaukee’s walk-off win on Friday, the Reds need a big effort from Johnny Cueto to keep pace in the packed National League Central standings. Luckily, the right-hander has made quality starts his specialty in recent weeks. He has pitched at least seven innings and ceded three runs or less in seven straight starts to lower his season ERA to 1.77. Milwaukee counters with Sean Marcum, who hasn’t won in almost a month. Marcum’s struggles seemed to be over on Monday when his fourth-inning grand slam gave his team a five-run lead, but the Brewers couldn’t hold it in an 8-6 loss to Arizona. If he can get back on track with a victory, it would ensure Milwaukee (48-42) a series win – and at least a share of the division lead – heading into the all-star break.

Other game to watch:

Atlanta at Philadelphia, 4:10 p.m. Two of the game’s hottest pitchers will meet at Citizens Bank Park. Right-hander Tommy Hanson has been a major spark in Atlanta’s recent surge, winning his last five starts with a 1.97 ERA in that span. Cliff Lee’s run of three straight shutouts ended last time out with a disappointing loss in Toronto, but the left-hander returns home – where he’s 7-1 with a 1.66 ERA in 10 starts this season – for his final outing before the all-star break. On the heels of Philadelphia’s walk-off win Friday, Lee will try to earn his team a series win and more breathing room in the NL East.

Games you should have seen:

Pittsburgh 7, Chicago Cubs 4: Pittsburgh’s Michael McKenry picked the perfect time for his first career home run. The young catcher blasted a go-ahead, three-run shot off fireballer Carlos Marmol in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Pirates (46-42) rallied past the Cubs on Friday night. After McKenry’s heroics, former National Joel Hanrahan converted his 26th save in as many chances to secure Pittsburgh’s fifth win in seven games.

Detroit 6, Kansas City 4: The Tigers moved within a half-game of Cleveland for the top spot in the American League Central, but the Royals made them earn the road win to get there. Kansas City loaded the bases in the ninth before all-star closer Jose Valverde coaxed Billy Butler into a game-ending fly out. Detroit — staked to an early lead by a Magglio Ordonez home run — scored just one run after the third inning but held on to earn Rick Porcello his eighth win of the season.

Stat you should know: 8. The number of first-inning runs Boston scored in its 10-3 home win against Baltimore. A day after hitting six home runs in a convincing victory, the Red Sox’ offense stayed hot, scoring eight runs on seven hits in the opening frame. Orioles starter Zach Britton lasted 10 batters and recorded just two outs. David Ortiz had the big blow in the early burst — a three-run home run — to help Boston cruise to its fourth straight win.

Star of the night: Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez continued his bid to turn around a disappointing season with three hits, including a home run, in Florida’s 6-3 win against Houston. Ramirez reached base in each of his four plate appearances, finishing 3 for 3 with a home run and three runs batted in. With at least one hit in nine of his past 10 games, the former all-star has raised his batting average more than 30 points.

Chatter: “I’m really not that good on dog names, I guess. I just came up with it.”Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson on naming his dog in honor of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who needs just two hits to reach 3,000 for his career. Hellickson was scheduled to make his first career start against Jeter and the Yankees — his favorite team growing up — on Friday, but when the game was rained out, the Rays bumped the young right-hander back in the rotation.

By  |  08:00 AM ET, 07/09/2011

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