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STL@CIN: Cingrani fans seven over 5 1/3 solid innings

Their four-game win streak may have been snapped on Monday with a 2-0 loss to Cubs, but the Reds are still playing their best baseball of the season.

Winning six of their last eight, the Reds will look to stay hot on Tuesday against the Cubs in Cincinnati. Monday's loss put them two games back of the Cardinals in the National League Central and one game back of the Pirates for the first spot in the NL Wild Card.

"There's a lot of momentum going for us right now. I know the guys are feeling it," catcher Ryan Hanigan said before Monday's game. "Everybody is feeling pretty confident in the way we're playing. It's a good time of year to be going well."

Left-hander Tony Cingrani gets the call for the Reds as he looks for his eighth win of the season. He got a victory his last time out against the Cardinals, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

The outing marked Cingrani's first start since missing two turns in the rotation with a lower back strain. Putting the team's mind at ease about the injury, Cingrani bunted for a hit, stole a base and scored in the 6-2 win.

Meanwhile, Edwin Jackson, who turned 30 on Monday, will be on the bump for the Cubs. The right-hander is looking for his first win since July 31, a span of six starts.

Jackson took a loss on Tuesday to the Marlins, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings. He also struck out four. Many of Jackson's problems during the start came down to the execution of his slider.

"That slider, he was throwing it 87, 88 miles an hour, and it was swing-and-miss [early], and then it just left him," Sveum said. "The velocity went down, and they were all short."

Jackson is 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA in four career starts against the Reds. However, he went just five innings and allowed four runs in a loss to them on May 5.

Cubs: Sveum likes Castro in leadoff role
Sveum has been pleased with shortstop Starlin Castro's approach since being inserted into the leadoff spot on Aug. 21.

He is hitting . 231 with two home runs and seven RBIs during that stretch. He's also drawn five walks and struck out 11 times.

"He's not the prototypical on-base guy or anything like that, but right now, if we get him going in a spot that he's obviously flourished in before, it's a way to maybe get him going," Sveum said. "Like I've said before, nobody has a crystal ball for why people hit better in certain spots. Realistically, you just have an at-bat, it doesn't matter. But some people do hit better in different spots. That's the way it is."

Reds: Team making plans for Cueto's return
A day after throwing his first simulated game since going on the disabled list June 29, Reds ace Johnny Cueto was scheduled to be examined by the medical staff on Monday.

These gradual steps are making the Reds think about when he may return.

"We're already figuring it out," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Everything depends on his body. It depends on our need. You don't want to force it in there. Even though he wants to force coming back, you don't want to end up with him coming back because he thinks he's ready and he ends up hurting his shoulder or something. It's just great to have him as a possibility."

Cueto has been on the DL three times this season because of a strained right lat muscle. He came out of a 30-pitch simulated game pain free and could find himself in a bullpen role for the Reds in the stretch run.

Worth noting
• The Reds have won 12 of their last 15 games against the Cubs, and dating back to last season have won 22 of the last 27 games.

• After going 6-4 in their first 10 games after the All-Star break, the Cubs are 13-27 in their last 40.

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