(Sports Network) - A three-game sweep over the defending World Series champions should help instill some confidence in the playoff-hopeful Reds. They would love for struggling starter Bronson Arroyo to get on board and he draws an opponent tonight that could serve as the perfect catalyst for a turnaround.
Cincinnati looks to win four straight for the first time since mid-May, while Arroyo tries to defeat the rival Houston Astros for an eighth straight time this evening in the opener of a three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The Reds seemed destined for a free fall after dropping four in a row to the New York Mets in the middle leg of a 10-game homestand as the National League West Giants were set to arrive in town. That didn't phase Cincinnati, who battled for an extra-inning victory in Friday's opener before outscoring San Francisco 16-2 over the final two games of the series.
Johnny Cueto put an exclamation mark on the sweep with a three-hit shutout on Sunday, while Joey Votto had a homer and four RBI in a 9-0 victory. Drew Stubbs ended with four hits and three runs scored, Todd Frazieradded a solo homer and Brandon Phillips ran his hitting streak to 10 games.
"We've played great baseball the past three days," Stubbs said. "We got outstanding pitching and scored some runs ... It's a good feeling for us."
The sweep only allowed the Reds to keep pace in the NL Central as they remained 6 1/2 games behind theBrewers for first place after Milwaukee finished up a three-game sweep of Houston on Sunday.
Arroyo hopes that those struggles by the Astros, as well as his recent run of success against the club, will help him lead the Reds to four straight wins for the first time since a five-game run from May 13-17.
Arroyo has yet to face the Astros this year, but has limited the club to a pair of runs or less in six of the games during his current winning streak in this series. The 34-year-old hasn't lost to Houston since Aug. 9, 2008 and won all three of his starts against the franchise last season with a 1.83 earned run average.
The right-hander comes into this start with his own struggles, though. He is 0-3 over his last five starts with a 7.42 ERA and has yielded at least four earned runs in six straight outings. Arroyo closed out a miserable July on Wednesday with a loss to the Mets, allowing five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits and three walks over six innings. He fell to 7-9 with a 5.58 ERA this season.
Arroyo faces an Astros club that scored just six runs in getting swept by the Brewers and lost eight of 10 on their road trip. Houston's swing was also highlighted by trades of two All-Star outfielders in Hunter Pence andMichael Bourn.
Pence was dealt to the Phillies on Friday and Bourn went to the Braves on Sunday for Jordan Schafer and a trio of prospects. Schafer will eventually take over for Bourn in center, but is currently out with a broken finger.
The Astros dropped a 5-4 decision in Sunday's finale with the Brewers as Jason Bourgeois hit three-run homer and scored twice. Brett Myers allowed four runs -- three earned -- over six innings, but Fernando Rodrigueztook the loss for yielding the winning run in the seventh inning.
"In his last five outings he has put us in a position to win," said Houston manager Brad Mills about Myers. "We just haven't done a good job of backing him up."
Bud Norris could use some of that missing help when he takes the hill tonight for the Astros. The right-hander has allowed two earned runs in his last two outings, but is 0-1 in that span.
Norris yielded four runs -- one earned -- over 6 1/3 innings at the Cubs on July 22, but was saddled with a 4-2 loss. Five days later in Cincinnati he was charged with two runs, one earned, on four hits and two walks but did not factor in the decision of a 4-2 win.
The 26-year-old is 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 21 starts this year and 0-1 lifetime versus the Reds with a 7.36 ERA over two starts. In that time he has allowed nine runs on 10 hits and seven walks over 11 innings.
The Reds have taken six of nine from the Astros this year and are 28-12 in this series since the start of the 2009 season.