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Billingsley, Dodgers Look To Hold Off Surging Reds

(Sports Network) - Johnny Cueto has been firing on all cylinders on the mound for most of this season. He showed the wrong kind of fire last time he pitched.

Set to return from a seven-game suspension stemming from a benches-clearing brawl, Cueto will try to extend the Cincinnati Reds' longest winning streak of the season tonight in the continuation of a three-game set versus the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chavez Ravine.

Cueto is set to take the hill for the first time since Aug. 10, when he yielded five runs -- four earned -- over 5 1/3 innings in a loss versus the Cardinals. More notable was his role in a first-inning incident in which Cueto found himself pinned against the backstop during a heated exchange between the teams.

The 24-year-old began kicking at the pile and connected one blow to the head of St. Louis catcher Jason LaRue, who is currently on the 60-day disabled list due to a concussion stemming from the hit.

"I was trying to go in and trying to break people off," Cueto told the Reds' website with catcher Ramon Hernandez interpreting. "As soon as I knew it, I had like 20 people pushing me all over to the net. I already had my back to the net with my feet up. When you see more than 15 people going over you, you definitely are going to get scared. I did get nervous."

Cueto was given a seven-game ban for "his violent and aggressive actions during the incident" and did not appeal.

The right-hander suffered his first loss since June 18 and fell to 11-3 with a 3.38 earned run average. In two career starts against the Dodgers, he is 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA.

He'll be looking to extend the Reds' seven-game winning streak after the club notched a 3-1 triumph in last night's opener, Cincinnati's first win in Los Angeles since July 28, 2005.

Brandon Phillips had three hits and drove in all three runs, while Homer Bailey pitched seven innings of one-run, four-hit ball to snap the Reds' 12- game skid at Dodger Stadium.

"Homer was strong. He was throwing as hard at the end as he was in the beginning," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We scratched and clawed, and three runs were enough."

The victory, the Reds' eighth in a row on the road, widened their lead to 4 1/2 games over the Cardinals for first place in the National League Central. Cincinnati also moved its record (71-51) to 20 games above .500 for the first time since ending the 1999 season at 96-67.

Carlos Monasterios was charged with eight hits and three runs -- one earned -- over 4 1/3 innings for the Dodgers, who have lost seven of their last 10 contests and are now eight games back in the NL Wild Card race.

Ryan Theriot plated his team's only run with a bunt base-hit in the third.

"We have to find a way to generate some offense," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said after Ryan Theriot plated his team's only run with a bunt base-hit in the third inning. "We have to get some base hits. Monasterios got into a slow rhythm and he was unsure of himself."

That spark might come in the form of Manny Ramirez, who could be activated from the 15-day disabled list. The outfielder has been since July 16 due to a right calf strain, but played six innings on Friday with Class-A Inland Empire.

His return would be welcomed by Chad Billingsley, who is 0-2 over his last four starts despite a 2.10 ERA. He threw seven innings of one-run ball versus the Braves on Monday, fanning eight in a no-decision.

The righty is 9-7 with a 3.66 ERA this year and lost to the Reds on April 20. Billingsley, 26, lasted just three innings and allowed seven runs -- six earned -- on seven hits, falling to 3-2 with a 3.21 ERA lifetime versus the Reds.

These two clubs split six games in Cincinnati prior to this series.